It’s understandable why a coach would want to come to Lambert. The 4-year-old school in Forsyth County just finished fourth overall in Class AAAAAA in the Georgia Athletic Directors Cup standings and won state titles in cheerleading, girls swimming, girls golf and gymnastics.
What made Tony Watkins’ move surprising was the place he left behind. Watkins was 59-2 in two seasons as Parkview’s girls head basketball coach, and he was returning 10 of its top 12 players. Parkview’s only loss last season came in double overtime against eventual state champion Norcross.
“I probably left the best team in the state, no doubt about that,’’ Watkins said. “I certainly hate to leave Parkview. I certainly hate to leave those girls. I love them to death. But it had a lot more to do with just basketball. It was more of a family decision.’’
Off-season coaching changes in basketball don’t get the same attention as football, but there have been a few big ones this year.
- Gainesville boys coach Todd Cottrell, who led the Red Elephants to the Class AAAAA championship game, is the new head coach at nearby Lakeview Academy, a Class A private school. Cottrell replaces the retiring Seth Vining, who won more than 700 games in a career that began in the 1970s.
- North Hall boys coach Benjie Wood, who led the Trojans to the Class AAA semifinals, replaced Cottrell at arch-rival Gainesville. Wood had been hired in March to take over at Flowery Branch, but Gainesville came with a stronger offer in April. Former Winder-Barrow coach David Sokol got the Flowery Branch job, which was made open originally by the resignation of former Chattahoochee coach Duke Mullis.
- Columbia girls coach Chantay Frost, who led teams to state titles in 2010, 2012 and 2013, is the new coach at Mays. The new coach at Columbia is Carla Hollaway, formerly head coach of Champion Theme, the DeKalb County girls middle school champion.
- Eagle’s Landing boys coach Clay Crump, who led the Golden Eagles to their first state championship in basketball, this week became the new coach at Harrison in Cobb County. Five Eagle’s Landing seniors signed college scholarships. Harrison was a state semifinalist in 2012 but failed to make the state playoffs last season after losing all five starters.
- North Cobb girls coach Matt Williams, who led the Lady Warriors into the Class AAAAAA semifinals, resigned last month after 14 seasons at the school to spend more time with his family. He has 10- and 3-year-old daughters. Williams was the AJC’s Cobb County girls coach of the year. He plans to remain at North Cobb.
- Alcovy boys coach Eugene Brown, who led the Indians to a region championship and the state quarterfinals in 2012 with a 27-4 record, is the new head coach at Southwest DeKalb. Brown started Alvovy’s program in 2006-07. Brown replaced Jarek Swain, who had taken the SWD job last season on an interim basis after the November resignation of Dwayne McKinney.
At Parkview, Watkins’ replacement will be Kirk Call. Call was an assistant coach on Parkview’s state championship team in 2004 and most recently was head coach at Walnut Grove.
Also coming to Lambert is South Gwinnett girls head coach Jamie Fisher, whom Watkins hired as his top assistant.
Lambert was 10-19 last season but made the state playoffs. Watkins and Fisher had been working with 20 eighth-graders and 40 high school players in off-season work.
‘’These kids have been working their butts off,’’ Watkins said. “They’ve been great. We’ve got a chance to build this thing up. This is one of the fastest-growing areas, and it’s a great school. Just felt like it was something we had to do.’’