Lifelong Comet takes over girls hoops

South Gwinnett's girls basketball program was shaken up this weekend, when new head coach Jimmy Long, citing personal reasons, resigned suddenly without ever coaching a game.

The school didn't wait long to hire a replacement, one who brings the stability of spending much of her life in the Comets' program. South announced longtime assistant Jaime Kruppa as its new head coach Tuesday, putting the program in the hands of one of the Comets' most distinguished players.

Kruppa helped South to the 1995 state title before playing four seasons at Georgia Tech. She has spent the previous eight seasons as an assistant coach to veteran South head coach Mike Allison, who resigned in the offseason.

"The big thing is Jaime's a Comet. She's always been a Comet," first-year South athletic director Scott Woodall said. "She was part of the best team in school history, a 33-0 state champion. She played collegiately at Georgia Tech and knows what it takes at that level. She'll be able to translate that experience to our girls.

"But most importantly, she's a true blue Comet. She's definitely committed to the program."

Kruppa, 30, said she envisioned coaching at her alma mater when she finished her playing career at Tech. But she originally worked outside of education while she served as an assistant to Allison.

The past two years she has worked as a substitute teacher, but she became a full-time teacher this school year. Now she's a first-time varsity head coach.

"When I first started coaching, that's what I wanted, I thought it would be cool to come back to my high school and coach and teach," Kruppa said. "It's very different now from when I was in school, but it's still really cool to be back and be the coach."

The promotion was still a surprise to her. Long, most recently the head coach at Snellville Middle, resigned unexpectedly over the weekend. Woodall said the decision by the Indiana native caught everyone off guard.

But he expects a smooth transition to Kruppa, who played and coached for Allison, one of the area's most successful coaches, for a total of 12 seasons.

"(Allison's) very happy for me," Kruppa said. "It's what he expected to begin with (when he resigned), so he's very happy. Of course he's happy for me that I'm filling his shoes. Even though they are big shoes."

SideBar: The Kruppa File

· Name: Jaime Kruppa

· New position: Head girls basketball coach at South Gwinnett

· Former position: Assistant girls basketball coach at South Gwinnett

· Age: 30

· Career record: First varsity head coaching job

· Education: Graduated from South Gwinnett High School in 1997; graduated from Georgia Tech with a management degree in 2001

· Background: Is entering her ninth season as a South coach; spent the previous eight seasons as junior varsity head coach and varsity assistant to Mike Allison, her high school coach; Comets went 100-16 during her four seasons, winning the 1995 state title with a 33-0 record; holds school records for career and single-game rebounds; was a two-time honorable mention All-ACC player at Georgia Tech; led Tech in scoring and rebounding as a junior, and rebounding as a senior

· Family: Single