Antonio Pierce takes over as coach of high school powerhouse

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Long Beach Poly has sent players like Willie McGinest, DeSean Jackson and Marcedes Lewis to the NFL over the years and now they’re welcoming a former NFL player as their next head coach.

Former Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce will replace Raul Lara, who retired after winning five state titles in 13 years as a coach. Pierce is from Long Beach and has a son at the school, but went to high school elsewhere. He’s familiar with the program, though, and said he’ll solicit help of the school’s notable alums as he tries to impart what he’s learned to his players in his first coaching job at any level.

“I know how much it means to kids to see somebody who came from their situation and who’s made it that far,” Pierce said, via Dan Graziano of “I always joked around that if I knew 5 percent of what I know now when I was in high school, in terms of technique, watching film, all of that, I would have been so much better.”

While Pierce will be taking over at Poly, he won’t be leaving his ESPN gig behind. Assistants will coach practice on days when Pierce is fulfilling his TV duties. That group of coaches will include some holdovers as well as former Giants teammate Derrick Ward and former NFL wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh.