We've confirmed with several sources that the next head football coach at Long Beach Poly will be former New York Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce.

The school will formally announce the hire in a press conference in the Poly auditorium at 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon.

Pierce will be the Jackrabbits’ 25th head coach in their 106-year history, and follows Raul Lara, who won a school-record five CIF titles before stepping away in December. He is the team’s first hire from outside the program since Troy Winslow was named head coach in 1971, after beating out current Poly assistants Jeff Turley and AJ Luke.

Pierce is a native of Compton, who played his prep football at Paramount High. He went on to Mt. San Antonio College and then Arizona. He was undrafted, but went on to a successful NFL career with the Redskins and Giants that lasted a decade, including a Pro Bowl berth in 2006. He was a starter on the Giants Super Bowl team in 2007.

Pierce is long on football playing experience but, unlike both Turley and Luke, short on time spent coaching, especially at the high school level. His free youth camps in the area have been a popular draw for several years, however.

The shoes he’ll be stepping into with the Jackrabbits will be hard to fill. The last two head coaches at the school, Lara and Jerry Jaso, combined to win nine Division 1 CIF Southern Section championships, and they’re the two winningest coaches in school history. Pierce will be just the third head coach of the team since 1985, when Jaso was hired along with co-coach Thomas Whiting.

Sources say that Pierce will bring in some of his own staff, but also retain some of the current assistants. It appears that, at the moment, the plan is for at least Luke and defensive backs coach Doc Moye to remain a part of the program. Pierce’s 2014 Jackrabbits will not be short on talent—they’ll feature a likely All-American defensive back in Iman Marshall, as well as returning running backs in Jeremy Calhoun and James Brooks, and quarterback Josh Love. The defense, likely to be Pierce’s specialty, will feature a number of returners besides Marshall, including linebacker Omari Lyles and defensive lineman Joseph Wicker.

Pierce currently serves as an analyst for ESPN.

Visit GazettesSports.com for live coverage of the press conference at 2 p.m. on Thursday.

Sports Guy Mike Guardabascio has been writing professionally for a decade, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards and is the author of the historical book "Football in Long Beach."

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