North's Watkins to coach Lanier boys hoops

Tony Watkins has experienced pretty much everything as a head basketball coach since he took his first job in 1981 at North Springs.

One of the few he hasn't tried is starting a new program. Now he can cross that off the list.

The 53-year-old stepped down as North Gwinnett girls basketball coach to become the first boys basketball head coach at Lanier, Gwinnett's newest high school slated to open in August. He told his North girls players about the decision on Monday.

"I love North Gwinnett, it's as good a place as I've ever worked and I've worked a lot of places," Watkins said. "But two things I've never done is win a state championship and start a new program. I don't know if I'll ever win a state championship, but when this opportunity came about to start the program at Lanier, I couldn't turn it down."

Watkins, who also will coach football at Lanier under former Collins Hill coach Billy Wells, won 250 games in 14 seasons as the boys coach at Woodward Academy, but most of his recent coaching has been done in Gwinnett.

He was 105-55 in six seasons as Shiloh's boys coach and in four seasons with the North girls, he led the team to three state tournament berths. His overall record at North was 75-37, including 47-24 in tough Region 7-AAAAA.

"(Watkins) is really excited," new Lanier principal Kerensa Wing said. "He's so experienced, too. It's going to be great to have his experience around here."

Lanier hasn't named a girls basketball coach yet, though Watkins said he's eager to work with that choice on the multitude of decisions facing a new program.

"It's exciting to know you get to start something from scratch," Watkins said. "I'm going out there Thursday to help decide how we're going to paint the floor. You get to pick out uniforms, design locker rooms, lockers. You get to establish the tradition of hard work. I'm excited. I'm rejuvenated."