It didn’t take Oneida long to find a successor to Tony Lambert.
That’s because the school didn’t have to look far for Lambert’s replacement.
Oneida Special School District Director Dr. Jeanny Phillips announced Thursday that offensive coordinator Jimmy May will be promoted to head coach, less than two weeks after Lambert announced he was resigning to accept a position at the University of the Cumberlands.
For Oneida, that means the football program’s guidance has come full circle.
May will begin his second stint as head coach of the program that his father, the late Jim May, built into one of the most respectable Class A football programs in the state.
“We believe that Coach May exemplifies the high standards of Oneida High School and Oneida football,” Phillips said. “He knows what it means to be an Oneida Indian at every level. Being the head football coach has been a longtime dream and Coach May is ready for the challenge.”
The May family moved to Oneida in 1981, when Jim May — who was originally from nearby Clinton — accepted the school’s head coaching position. He coached the Indians until his death, which came suddenly in 1997, after he collapsed on the sideline during a game. He was the longest-tenured and winningest coach in Oneida’s history, records that still stand.
Jimmy May played quarterback under his father at Oneida. In 1991, he joined his father’s staff as an assistant, a role that he continued for the remainder of his father’s career.
May was promoted to co-head coach in 1999, a position he shared with the late Keith Henry. The two men coached the Indians until 2004, when the school decided to make a move back to a solo head coach. The team’s record during that time was 50-21, with six playoff appearances.
“As we move forward in this new chapter, it seems right and true that OHS football has come full circle and we have another Coach May leading the Oneida Indians football team,” Phillips said. “Jimmy May grew up living the OHS tradition and legacy. We are confident he will continue to uphold the expectations of pride, class and character as did those who came before him.”
May is a career educator, having taught science at Oneida High School for the past 30 years. In addition to being a football coach, he also coached the Oneida baseball team for several seasons in the 1990s.
Jim May assembled a record of 140-55 at Oneida, and had a career coaching record of 218-100. When he followed in his father’s footsteps as a head coach, Jimmy May won a total of 50 games in six years, and his and Henry’s teams never failed to make the playoffs.
But the school decided to make a change after the 2004 season. Jim Burchfield was named head coach in 2005, though it was understood at the time that it was a short-term move that would ultimately result in Lambert — who was hired away from Anderson County as defensive coordinator — becoming head coach. Henry left for Coalfield, where he would join Gary Kries’s staff and later succeed Kries as head coach until his death this past December. May spent several years out of coaching before becoming OHS’s athletics director in 2007. Three years later, he joined the staff of then-head coach John Brewster. He remained on staff in 2012, when Lambert — who had resigned in 2008 to take a job at Anderson County and, later, Scott High — returned as head coach.
The school’s decision to promote May to succeed Lambert was not unexpected; sources within the school had expected the announcement to be soon forthcoming.