GAINESVILLE — The coaching carousel continues to swirl throughout northeast Georgia.
The Chestatee boys basketball program is the latest job opening to take a ride on it.
After three seasons as head coach of the War Eagles, Kevin Strickland accepted the same position at Monroe Area on Tuesday.
“Chestatee High School is grateful to Coach Strickland for his tireless efforts to make our athletes better basketball players and better young men,” Chestatee Athletics Director Ben Corley said. “We wish him and his family great success.”
Monroe Area finished the 2019 season 9-19 and knocked out Franklin County in the first round of the Region 8-3A tournament to earn a bid to the state playoffs. Strickland will replace Bryan Richerson, who filled the boys' basketball coach opening at Fannin County earlier this week.
“It comes down to where I live,” Strickland said about the decision to leave CHS. “Monroe Area is nine miles from my house — ultimately, it was a family decision. It just fits everything that we were looking for in terms of travel and family. Plus, I’ll be home more often.”
The War Eagles began the 2018-19 campaign as the hottest team in the area, winning 10 of 14 before Christmas break.
But, after the break, Chestatee finished 2-8, including a six-game skid to end the season and an early exit from the Region 7-4A tournament.
Nevertheless, the War Eagles bought into Strickland’s up-tempo, shooting philosophy and improved in each of the three seasons under Strickland.
“I’ll miss the relationship with my players the most,” he said. “You can’t always measure success with wins and losses, but the kids bought into what we were doing and worked their tails off. They were 0-23 when I got here and now they have an identity. Everybody knows us as a great shooting team and that came from their hard work. I’m really proud of what they were able to get done on the floor but also on their skill set and creating that identity.
Strickland’s move will not be easy. He’s jumping out of Region 7-4A, one of the toughest regions in Class 4A, into Region 8-3A. The region houses defending state champ Morgan County, state runner-up Hart County, state qualifiers Jefferson and Franklin County and East Jackson.
Franklin County earned Class 3A’s only at-large bid via GHSA power ratings.
“Just to compete,” Strickland said about the region. “I hope to get the kids to buy in as they did here at Chestatee and see where the chips fall. I’m going from one nasty region to one that might be even tougher, considering two of the teams played for the state title. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m not looking for easy. I’m looking for a good fit from a school perspective and Monroe Area checked all the boxes. It’s bittersweet, that’s for sure because I absolutely love it at Chestatee."