When North Hall baseball coach Trent Mongero called a team meeting Tuesday evening, Reese Olson had an inkling of what would be discussed.
The rising senior pitcher/third baseman and his fellow returning Trojans packed into the team’s locker room at Jody Davis Field, well aware of the rumors swirling around North Hall’s coaching staff just like they did every offseason.
But this time, there was some truth to the chatter — Mongero informed his players he was leaving the school to take the head coaching job at Glynn Academy.
“There were some rumors going around, but I didn’t know what to think,” Olson said. “He coached me and my brother (Griffin). He was here for so long, so it’s tough seeing him go. He told us to never forget how blessed we are with the community we have at North Hall. He got pretty emotional talking about it.”
Though Mongero said he left the position with a heavy heart, his departure leaves a huge vacancy for a program just one month removed from its first-ever state championship.
North Hall is working to fill the opening after Mongero’s 11 years leading the team. Trojans athletic director Billy Wells said several candidates had already contacted him about the job as of Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after Mongero’s resignation became official.
“I would say we will be actively seeking a new baseball coach,” Wells said. “ … The status of our program is strong. We are proud of that and what it represents for our school and our community. We’re seeking a high-caliber coach to fill this role.”
Whomever that ends up being will have a tough act to follow.
Mongero ushered in a period of unprecedented success at North Hall, which had never advanced past the second round of the state playoffs prior to his hiring in 2007. The Trojans went 231-103 under his watch and qualified for the playoffs every year since 2011, finishing as state runner-up in 2013 and a state quarterfinalist in 2015.
His vision for the program finally came to fruition this year when North Hall swept Pierce County on May 25 in Savannah to win the Class 3A state title, the first in the school’s 60-year history.
It was the result of a stunning turnaround for Mongero’s squad, which won 10 straight playoff games following a 1-7 slide. He was named Class 3A Coach of the Year by Georgia Dugout Preview Magazine.
“We were able to create a complete program, which culminated with this year,” the coach said. “The program is being left in a very good state. There’s good talent and hard-working kids who know what it takes to win both on and off the field. The future is really bright there.
“I’ll be pulling in a big, big way from five and a half hours away for North Hall to be very successful.”
Glynn Academy needed several attractions to lure Mongero so far from Gainesville and where his two children, Taber and Maris, will soon be attending college.
Chief among them was the school’s state-of-the-art, 16.1-acre sports complex — which will feature a 13,000-square-foot indoor batting and pitching facility — scheduled to be completed by next season.
Mongero also cited the excitement of a new challenge, the “opportunity for a better (financial) situation” for his family and the chance to return to his roots on the Atlantic coast.
“We’re from the coast, and we started our family in Wilmington, (North Carolina),” he said. “We have saltwater in our blood, so getting back to the beach was appealing. When you add all that together, we had a peace about the decision.”
At first, however, Mongero had no intention of departing for Glynn Academy.
He interviewed for the Cartersville job but withdrew his name about three weeks ago, leaving him and wife Sonya confident they’d remain at North Hall. Mongero said he didn’t pursue the handful of other calls he received, including the initial one from Glynn Academy.
With Taber, a standout shortstop for the Trojans, continuing his baseball career at Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina and Maris set to attend the University of North Georgia, the move to Brunswick would create even more distance between them and their parents.
“My initial thoughts were that my wife would never go for it,” Mongero said. “I kind of didn’t think it would be realistic. But I spoke to (Glynn Academy’s) athletic director, and the more he shared with me, the more I felt like I wanted to hear what they had to say and check it out in person.”
Sonya consented to the idea, and the couple made the more-than-300-mile trek to the school Monday for a formal interview.
By the end of the day, Glynn Academy administrators had offered Mongero the job.
“We prayed about it beforehand,” he said. “Afterward, taking everything into consideration, we felt like in our hearts that God was leading us on this new journey. We knew were 100 percent taking leap of faith, leaving a community that we love and have grown personally and professionally with, as well as one our kids have grown up with.”
Yet Mongero insisted taking such a leap of faith hasn’t been the hardest part of this transition. The goodbyes, he said, have been much more difficult.
Mongero has said plenty of those over the last few days, from North Hall administrators to his players to the team’s booster club members. He wanted to make sure they all heard the news from him, starting with Wells.
“Trent has done a good job for us building the program for the last 11 years,” the Trojans athletic director said. “Certainly we were sad to see him go.”
As were North Hall’s returning players, who now seek to maintain the program’s championship-level of success without the man who engineered its rise.
“I’ll always remember how great of a coach he was,” Olson said. “He knows baseball better than anyone I’ve ever met. I’m very thankful he started talking to colleges for me and got me looked at by some of them. I’m going to miss him, but we’ve got to move on to next year.”