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Former Collins Hill coach returns to Gwinnett

The timing worked out perfect for Norcross.

The high school was in the market for a head girls basketball coach at the same time Angie Hembree was eyeing a return to the Atlanta area. So now the Blue Devils have a proven winner as a head coach in Hembree, who is awaiting approval by the Gwinnett County Public Schools Board of Education.

Talks of Hembree, an assistant the past two years in the ACC for Miami's women's team, taking the Norcross job had been going around for weeks on message boards and in coaching circles. It will finally became official soon.

"It was the worst kept secret ever," said Hembree, who also will serve as assistant athletic director at Norcross.

Hembree is well known in the Gwinnett area for building Collins Hill into a powerful program, one that has continued to flourish under Tracey Tipton, one of Hembree's former

assistants.

She led the Eagles to state championships in 2001, 2002 and 2005 and then made the tough choice to leave Collins Hill and star Maya Moore for a dream job at the college level. She enjoyed her time at Miami, but said it was time to come back to the Atlanta area.

All of her family is around Atlanta, including her father, who went into the hospital in early February for pancreatitis and was only recently released. She plans to live with her parents in McDonough until her father's health improves.

"It got pretty bad for a while, we weren't sure he would make it," Hembree said of her father. "I feel sure that he's going to be OK. It's just a matter of time.

"My dad's illness had a lot to do with (coming back to Atlanta). It was not the sole reason, but it certainly was the main reason. My home's here, my family's here and I missed home. I had a wonderful experience at Miami and I loved it. I'm a better coach for it. But I needed to be home."

Her return is a blessing for Norcross, which was looking for a replacement for Mike Lee.

Lee was the Blue Devils' coach for the past 12 seasons, going 8-19 last season with a young team. Hembree has 21 years of high school experience, including her latest successful run at Collins Hill. She had a 181-33 record with the Eagles, including a two-year run of 63-2.

"The tradition of excellence and synergy she's been able to create in her programs is great," said Norcross principal Jonathan Patterson, who taught with Hembree when the two worked at South Forsyth. "I had the opportunity to see her coach (at South Forsyth) and her relationship with the kids and the community is great. She's a great asset to this community. She'll be able to build on the tradition we have at Norcross."

Norcross' boys basketball program has won the past two Class AAAAA state titles under Eddie Martin, and the school hopes its new girls hires also helps that program become a power. Hembree is excited about that opportunity, as well as the chance to work with high school students again.

"I'm excited about Norcross, what a great situation," Hembree said. "Of course Eddie's one of the best. I'm looking to make the program and community better any way I can. I think the world of Mike Lee, we've been friends for years, and I'm honored to be following him."

The toughest part of Hembree's job may lie in the Region 7-AAAAA schedule. She will have to coach against Collins Hill and her good friend Tipton at least twice next season, in addition to facing former assistant Ashley Phillips' Mill Creek squad.

"That's going to be weird, really strange (to coach against Collins Hill)," Hembree said. "A lot of those (Collins Hill) kids from when I was there have graduated....but it's still going to be a little bit weird the first time."

Hembree will have at least one familiar face on her Norcross staff. Longtime Creekland Middle School coach and Collins Hill varsity assistant Jay Nebel will join Hembree's staff as an assistant. The new coach will meet with parents of Norcross players Friday, April 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the media center.

Dove to coach

Norcross volleyball

Norcross also has hired Kevin Dove, a veteran coach who is currently at Riverwood, as its new head volleyball coach. Dove led Riverwood to a 22-16 record last season and a trip to the second round of the state tournament. He also was Riverwood's head girls basketball coach at Riverwood.