HOMER — Longtime Banks County boys basketball coach Mike Cleveland announced Thursday that he is stepping down after nine seasons at the helm of the Leopards.
Cleveland led the Leopards to the state playoffs each of the last six seasons, including the program’s first-ever quarterfinal berth this past season. Banks County had made just six state playoff appearances in its history until 2015.
Cleveland, who is also the athletic director for Banks County, announced at the same time that current assistant Ryan Griffin was promoted to take over the head coaching duties.
“I just felt like this is the right time to do this for two reasons,” Cleveland said. “First, this will give me more time for my family and to go see (son) Carl play at Young Harris. Also, I felt Ryan was ready for this and it was time for him to get his turn.”
Griffin spent the last four seasons as an assistant under Cleveland after spending time with legendary coach Seth Vining at Lakeview Academy.
“Ryan has seen a lot and experienced different styles and think he is going to do a great job of keeping things moving forward for us,” said Cleveland, who will be staying on as the AD for the Leopards.
The Leopards finished the 2019-20 season 25-5 and as Region 8-2A champions. They also advanced to their first Elite 8 game since 1995, when they only took 16 teams instead of 32 today, with a thrilling win over Butler in the second round.
That was one of several memorable moments for Cleveland in his time at Homer. He also served as the girls and boys head coaches at Hart County after being an assistant for longtime Jefferson boys coach Bolling DuBose.
“(The Elite 8) game was a big moment for the program but to me the biggest thing is that when I got here the kids in the program didn’t expect to win. This year, they were disappointed they didn’t get further,” he said. “To me that means we’ve set the expectations higher which is what you want in any program.
“I think our first region title in 2017 was another big moment for the program. It was a great nine years for me here but it really was just time for someone else to have their chance.
“I know one thing. The future looks really bright for Banks County basketball and I’m interested to see what new things Ryan and the rest of the staff bring.”
Assistant Tony Bedford will stay on as well as community coach and JV coach Gatlin Boswell.