Chris Thurman is out after nine years as head football coach at Harrisonburg High School, a school official confirmed to the Daily News-Record on Wednesday.
HHS athletic director Brandon Burley said in an email that the players were informed earlier this week that Thurman was no longer the team’s coach and that former assistant coach Josh Carico, who serves as an outside grounds maintenance worker at the school, would lead the Blue Streaks during the postseason as an interim.
Burley, who is in his second year as athletic director, would not confirm if the move was a firing or a resignation, saying only that the school “was unable to comment on personnel matters.”
Attempts to reach Thurman were not successful Wednesday.
“The team was informed earlier this week of the appointment of Josh Carico as the interim head coach,” Burley said. “Players and coaches are focused on preparing for the playoffs and have continued their normal routine as we prepare for William Fleming.”
Carico will coach the fourth-seeded Blue Streaks, along with assistants Joe Carico, Moses Tinsley, Lane Lough and Jay Hook, when they host fifth-seeded William Fleming in the opening round of the Region 5D playoffs on Friday at 7 p.m. at Walter F. Green III Field.
“Josh has been a member of our coaching staff for seven years,” Burley said. “He demonstrates the leadership qualities and skills necessary to work collaboratively with the assistant coaches to ensure our student-athletes continue to be provided quality coaching as they prepare for the playoffs.
“In addition, Josh has demonstrated the ability to work effectively with our players which provided a smooth transition to his role as interim coach. Josh’s relationships with his colleagues and players are representative of the skills needed to guide the team at this time.”
Thurman, a former James Madison offensive lineman who guided Gretna to two state championships as a head coach, was hired as the Blue Streaks coach in March of 2011 to replace Tim Sarver, who held the position from 1985 until retiring in 2010.
Since taking the position, Thurman has guided Harrisonburg to a 49-45 overall record across nine seasons with four playoff appearances, including the past three years — including 2019.
This season, the Streaks had an up-and-down season, suffering back-to-back blowout losses to open the year before winning five of six contests, only to drop two straight regular-season games to close the year and finish third in the Valley District standings.
“The kids have been great,” Carico said. “We couldn’t ask for anything more out of them, especially with everything going on. Even with the cold, we’ve braved the elements. All the kids have been upbeat and we’re ready to go. We’re ready to go against William Fleming, ready to finish the fight.”
Before coming to Harrisonburg, Thurman spent two seasons as the head coach at Virginia High School in Bristol after leaving Gretna and returned to the area after playing for JMU from 1990-1993 and graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
Thurman began his career as an offensive line coach at Brown University in Rhode Island from 1993-1994. In 2002, he took over defensive coordinator responsibilities at Gretna, helping to guide the Hawks to back-to-back state championships in 2003 and 2004.
In 2005, with Thurman taking over as head coach, Gretna added back-to-back state titles in 2007 and 2008. In his two previous head coaching stints, Thurman went 57-14.
The Streaks, meanwhile, will kickoff against William Fleming in the opening round of the regional playoffs on Friday at HHS.
“We have the utmost confidence in our coaching staff,” Burley said. “We have a veteran coaching staff and we are confident in their ability to lead the Blue Streaks into the playoffs. The coaches and players are focused on preparing for the playoff game on Friday night.”