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Watkins returns to Gwinnett to coach Grayson girls basketball

In this 2013 file photo, Tony Watkins addresses the Parkview basketball team during the playoffs. After spending a year at Lambert, he'll be coaching at Grayson next season.

In this 2013 file photo, Tony Watkins addresses the Parkview basketball team during the playoffs. After spending a year at Lambert, he'll be coaching at Grayson next season.

Having spent much of the last 15 years coaching basketball in Gwinnett County, Tony Watkins has come to like the local scene.

So after just one year away, the 30-plus year veteran is back after accepting the head girls coaching job at Grayson.

“I’m excited to be back,” said Watkins, who spent last season coaching the girls team at Lambert High School in Forsyth County to a 6-19 mark. “I really missed it (in Gwinnett County), and Grayson’s close to my house. … I met with the girls (Monday), and it went well. We’re ready to get going.”

The 57-year-old Watkins has had plenty of stops coaching both boys and girls team over a career that spans 32 years of head coaching and extends to 35 years including three seasons as an assistant coach at his high school alma mater, then-Lakeshore High School (now Westlake) in Atlanta.

And he’s had plenty of success, with an overall record of 602-270, which includes stints as boys coach at Shiloh and Lanier, plus girls coach at North Gwinnett and Parkview, the latter of which he posted a 59-2 mark, two region championships and two state tournament appearances from 2011-2013.

“It’s a tremendous hire for us,” said Grayson athletics director Brian DeBerry. “We’re looking forward to the experience and knowledge he brings to the table. He was 59-2 at Parkview in this region and he has 600-something wins. With that kind of experience, we look forward to seeing where our program goes.”

Watkins inherits a Grayson team which appears to be headed in the right direction after four seasons under Cynthia Cooper.

Though the Rams went just 22-75 under Cooper, they’ve steadily improved in wins each season, going from just three wins in 2010-11 to 10 this past season.

That improvement has Watkins optimistic despite competing in a region that includes perennial powerhouse Parkview, as well as this season’s Class AAAAAA state runner-up Archer.

“Everyone’s still looking up at Parkview, and right now they’re really looking up at Archer,” said Watkins, who will also help coach the Rams’ ninth-grade football team among his duties. “With Cynthia, (the Rams) were getting better every year. They still haven’t had a lot of (wins), but they’ve been much more competitive the last few years. I’m excited to be back.”

Watkins leaves Lambert in the hands of another coach with Gwinnett ties, as assistant Jaime Kruppa Fisher, a former head player and head coach at South Gwinnett, takes over the program.

That move was planned from the start of his tenure at Lambert, though sped up when Watkins decided to return to Gwinnett.

THE WATKINS FILE

Name: Tony Watkins

New position: Head boys basketball coach at Grayson

Former position: Head girls basketball coach at Lambert

Age: 57

Career record: 602-270

Education: Graduated from Lakeshore High School (now Westlake) in 1974; graduated from Oglethorpe University in 1978 with degrees in education and political science

Background: Played two years of college ball at Oglethorpe; first coaching job was as an assistant at his alma mater, Lakeshore; coached for three years there, winning Class AA title in 1980; first head coaching job was at North Springs from 1981-84; spent one year at Russell High (now Tri-Cities) before going to Woodward Academy in 1986; coached for 14 years at Woodward, posting a record of 250-112; his 1996-97 team advanced to the Class AAA Final Four; coached boys team at Shiloh for six seasons, going 105-55; was 22-7 in his first head girls coaching job at North Gwinnett’s in 2005-2006; coached Heritage’s boys team one season with his son and then coached three seasons at North, one season with Lanier’s boys in its inaugural season and two season with Parkview’s girls, rolling up a 59-2 record with two state tournament appearances in the latter; Has an overall record of 605-270 in 32 seasons as a head coach; son Tony Jr. is currently the head girls coach at Holy Innocents’, while son Kristopher is a former head boys coach at South Cobb, and is now a teacher at Berkmar; wife Katherine is Shiloh’s athletic secretary

Family: Wife Katherine; sons Tony Jr., 34, Kristopher, 29, and T.J., 26; daughter Casey, 22