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Smart Start
Locals build young coaching careers under Landers

DULUTH - David Akin and Sara Kate Greene talk frequently about their hometown.

They grew up roughly 10 minutes apart and often hung out at the same places, including the same video rental store in Lilburn. But Akin went to Berkmar and Greene, a few years younger than Akin, went to Parkview, so the two never met until they crossed paths with a common goal.

Both of the Gwinnett grads are involved with the Georgia women's basketball program, hoping to soak up some knowledge from legendary Bulldog coach Andy Landers.

"Coach Landers, a coach like him, you just don't find those everywhere," said Akin, who made the trip back home for Monday's game with Clemson at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. "People tell me I should be breaking into the men's game, that I should be meeting other people, that I might not be going down the right track (for a men's job).

"But I know I'm learning at a high level, maybe an accelerated rate from somebody else. And off the court (Landers) is a father figure to me. That's big with me because I lost my father at a young age. ... I'm learning things a lot more than basketball, too, and that's very important to me."

Akin worked previously for the Bulldogs as a student manager while finishing up a master's degree in sports management. He then joined the program full-time as an administrative assistant, handling all of Landers' video duties.

The Berkmar grad breaks down video and shoots games, but also has a number of other duties, ranging from setting up the 2009-2010 schedule to contacting former players.

"To steal one of coach's lines I'm living the dream," said Akin, who played basketball at Brewton-Parker and worked two years as an assistant coach at Agnes Scott. "I really am. Every day I wake up, it's the best day of my life. I can't imagine doing anything else or having it any better than I do right now."

Greene is having just as much fun.

A key member of Parkview's 2003 state championship team, she walked on at Georgia as a freshman and played on scholarship as a sophomore. But she wanted to be a regular college student and didn't play her final two seasons. She stayed involved with the program by working camps and also did an internship with the women's team.

That led her to her current job as a graduate assistant, one of two for the Bulldogs. Only one is permitted to travel to each game, so Greene had to miss Monday's game in Gwinnett because she took a previous trip to Rutgers.

"I'm definitely having fun," said Greene, who said her interest in coaching is more at the high school level. "(Coach Landers) is one of the greatest coaches of all-time. I couldn't ask to be a GA under anyone better."

The lure of a job with Landers is something she shares with Akin, along with a hometown. The two Gwinnett grads engage in good-natured arguments about their rival high schools and their past accomplishments.

"It's been a fun time with her because we're both from the same part of town and we have the Berkmar-Parkview rivalry," Akin said. "She's quick to remind me how she has a state championship and I don't. But I always remind her that we beat Parkview my senior year in the subregion tournament."

The 1998 win over Parkview was Akin's biggest moment as a high school player.

Not one of Berkmar's go-to players, he hit a jumper that ended the favored Panthers' season before the state tournament. It also kept a Patriots' season alive that eventually went all the way to the state finals behind star guard Tony Akins, who played at Georgia Tech.

"I don't remember a thing about the shot," Akin said. "Obviously Coach (David) Boyd did not draw up a play for me to shoot the game-winning shot. I don't even remember the play leading up to it. I don't remember catching the ball up top.

"I can see it when I replay it. I do remember it rolling around and going in and us charging the gym floor at Central Gwinnett."

Back when Akin played, there was no Arena at Gwinnett Center. That was one of the reasons why he enjoyed coming home for Monday's game, to see the new facility and see how Gwinnett has changed, since he doesn't get to see much of it when he visits his mother in Dacula.

"It's always fun and I don't get to come back here very often," Akin said. "It's fun just to come back home and just be in Gwinnett. I know that might sound silly but I'm never here anymore. It's nice to see how much it's grown. I don't even know my way around. From what I'm told, I wouldn't even recognize the Berkmar campus. It's neat to see how much it's grown here."