Two Region 8-AAAAAA girls basketball programs lost their head coaches this week, including one that likely will be the preseason No. 1 in Class AAAAAA later this year.
Parkview girls coach Tony Watkins stepped down to become the new head girls coach at Lambert in Forsyth County, leaving a team that went 29-1 this season and only loses two seniors. His top assistant at Lambert will be Jaime Kruppa Fisher, who resigned this week as the South Gwinnett girls head coach.
Watkins was the Panthers' girls coach for two seasons and finished with an amazing 59-1 record. His final team lost in double overtime in the second round of the state playoffs to eventual state champion Norcross.
"We've got some work to do but we're excited about it," Watkins said of the Lambert job. "(Fisher) and I, we're a team in this. I'm looking forward to it, but I hate to leave my players at Parkview. They've done everything we've asked them to do. I just felt like this was the best decision for my family and I'm excited about getting that program going."
For Fisher, the decision to leave South was just as difficult.
She spent nearly half of her life with the Comets, first as a star player and the past 12 as a coach. She was an assistant for eight years under her high school coach, Mike Allison, and had a 55-55 record the past four seasons as head coach.
Her first South team went 6-20, but the past three had winning records and earned two state playoff berths.
"It was time for a change," said Fisher, whose husband is a baseball coach at South. "I'm taking a step back to be an assistant coach and I'm excited about the next chapter and seeing what it has in store. South's been a huge part of my life for a long time, so it was a difficult decision to make. It was an emotional day to tell my players. I'm really close to my players so that was tough."
Her new boss will be Watkins, who spent the first 14 seasons of his coaching career as Woodward Academy's boys coach, but has worked 13 of the past 14 seasons in Gwinnett. He coached the Shiloh boys for six seasons, the North Gwinnett girls for four and the Lanier boys for a season before taking over the Parkview girls program.
The Panthers have dominated Region 8-AAAAAA the past few seasons, and Watkins said it was difficult to leave the school and the players, as well as good friend and assistant coach Carl Zimmerman.
"I'll miss Carl and I'm thankful to Coach (Mark) Whitley and Mr. (David) Smith for giving me this opportunity at Parkview," Watkins said. "This is just the best decision for me for personal reasons."
Parkview will now have two new head basketball coaches for the 2013-14 season. Boys coach Steve Richardson stepped down recently and the school has hired Nick Gast, previously a men's assistant coach at Valdosta State, as the new boys head coach.