Looking to maintain the momentum built from three straight 20-win seasons, Berkmar school officials have moved quickly to fill the head coaching vacancy in their girls basketball program.
Valdosta head coach Julie McCutcheon has been picked to replace Tamara Brooks, who stepped down after two successful seasons and guiding the Patriots to the Class AAAAA state tournament last month.
McCutcheon, 33, has spent the last four seasons building a Valdosta program that had only four remaining varsity players in it when she took over and had won just a combined three games over the previous two seasons.
She guided the Wildcats to an average of nine wins over the next four seasons, but it is more than those tangible numbers that Berkmar athletics director Glenn Wilson said made McCutcheon attractive to school administrators.
"She's got a lot of energy and passion for basketball," Wilson said of McCutcheon. "And she did a lot of good things in Valdosta. She's experienced a lot of success getting kids to do what they don't necessarily think they can do."
McCutcheon also has a strong basketball background as a player in her native Tennessee at Adamsville Junior/Senior High School and at Lambuth University, and as a coach in Valdosta's high school and middle school programs.
She inherits a program that has won 70 games over the last three seasons - 48 under Brooks the last two years - and has made the state tournament each time.
While the Patriots are losing several seniors from this year's team, McCutcheon is encouraged by the talent left in the program and the challenge of getting that talent to maintain the program's winning tradition.
"It's a good opportunity and a high caliber of basketball," McCutcheon said. "I know several players are graduating, but that's fine. In girls basketball, youth doesn't always mean everything. It can be a good thing.
"They've done a good job of winning the last few years, and we plan on coming in and building on that."
SideBar: The McCutcheon File
Name: Julie McCutcheon
New position: Head girls basketball coach at Berkmar
Former position: Head girls basketball coach at Valdosta
Career record: 36-58 in four seasons
Education: Graduated from Adamsville High School in Adamsville, Tenn., in 1993; graduated from Lambuth University in Jackson, Tenn., in '96
Background: After a playing career in high school and college, McCutcheon has spent the last nine years coaching on the middle school and high school levels. She took over a varsity program at Valdosta that had won just three games the previous two seasons and made it competitive, including a 9-14 mark by the Wildcats last season.
Family: Husband Todd; daughters Sydney Grace, 2, and Macey Claire, 1