As far as announcements go, Tuesday went smoothly for Trey Kavanaugh.
The former Appalachian State wide receiver was officially named the head football coach at Cuthbertson High School that night. He got to stand up in front of a few Cavaliers players, faculty and athletics supporters to deliver his initial expectations and plans for his new program.
“I’ve thought about that moment for a long time,” Kavanaugh said. “It was awesome.”
Many family members were there as well, the first-time head coach said. Part of that contingent included his grandparents, Jerry and Margaret Moore.
Kavanaugh played for Moore, the winningest coach in App State football history and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, from 2011 to 2014. He also played at Watauga High School, living with Moore as the connection between the two became more apparent to spectators.
Because of that, Kavanaugh said he had early conversations with his grandfather about how to form his own identity. He didn’t want to be known solely as Jerry Moore’s grandson. But Kavanaugh wasn’t going to shy from his association with Moore either. He’d learned a lot from the national title-winning coach, but more so from the man.
“He’s just such a great human being. I very rarely talk about him as a coach as far as Xs and Os and all that type of stuff,” Kavanaugh said. “I got to be around an amazing human being for the better part of my life.
“I came from Atlanta, my parents got divorced, and I got the opportunity to move in with him and Margaret, and they were pretty much my parents growing up. They are huge influences on my life. He taught me, he instilled values in me that were really, really important.”
Kavanaugh spent the past three seasons coaching at Ardrey Kell in Charlotte. He served as the Knights offensive coordinator in 2017 and 2018. In 2018, Ardrey Kell won only once in its first seven games — featuring an 0-5 start in losses against state powers like Weddington, Charlotte Catholic and Cornelius Hough — but recovered to claim the school’s first conference title.
To Kavanaugh, that stretch set him up to take his new job.
“I was a part of something like that, where those kids faced tremendous adversity where they could have backed down and said we’re 0-6, we suck, why are we even doing this?” Kavanaugh said. “Instead, they kind of stood up and said we’ve still got a chance.”
When it came to interviewing for Cuthbertson, Kavanaugh didn’t tell Moore about the opening. Only once Kavanaugh had been offered the job did he call his grandfather. The next day, Moore drove into Union County so the two could walk the Cuthbertson campus together.
There, Moore laid out a checklist for Kavanaugh:
- One, Moore wanted to make sure Kavanaugh understood the time commitment of a head coach.
- Two, Moore said Kavanaugh needed to be sure he was set up to find success.
- Three, Moore said to be sure about the people. “Whenever you’re talking about Jerry Moore, he’s going to ask about people," Kavanaugh said. "He always wants to make sure your around good people.”
- And finally, Kavanaugh needed to be sure the program fit him.
That last one, Kavanaugh pointed out, was the whole reason for Moore’s trip. They visited the campus to make sure both were confident in the spot. Kavanaugh said outside of the occasionally suggestion — “you better get a good offensive line coach, you better get a good defensive backs coach and a good defensive coordinator,” Kavanaugh joked — Moore's focus has been simple.
“I think, for the most part, he’s been a really proud grandpa,” Kavanaugh said.
Kavanaugh will have his first team meeting with players Thursday morning. He’s had time to determine what his staff might look like, what the workout schedule could be and the potential scrimmages Cuthbertson could line up as the football season nears.
But in the opening days of his head coaching tenure, Kavanaugh is trying to get some of the small details down now, especially when interaction with all the new faces that will become part of his daily life.
“Trying to remember names, trying to remember the little things, trying to treat everybody with respect,” Kavanaugh said. “Because you’re only going to get to talk to a handful of people, but that handful of people are going to be talking about you and they’re going to be kind of your representative, so you want to make good impressions.
“It’s almost like the interview process just keeps going with everyone, with every person you talk to. You’re trying to be the best version of yourself and hopefully that takes care of itself.”