Just about one month after Eddie Bryant announced that he was stepping down as head coach of the Lady Generals' basketball program, Heritage HIgh School Athletic Director Eric Schexnaildre announced on Wednesday that the program had tabbed Greg Elkins to fill the position.
Elkins, who has spent the past 12 years as head coach of the Ringgold High boys' program, informed his Tiger players of his decision on Tuesday night.
"It was the toughest decision I've ever had to make, professionally," he said.
Elkins enjoyed three 20-win seasons with the Tigers and a pair of 19-win campaigns as part of a 182-147 overall record with the Blue-and-White. Seven of his teams made the state playoffs and three of his Ringgold teams finished as region runner-up. He also coached five 1,000 career-point scorers, including Nick Scott, the program's all-time leader (1,635).
"(The decision) has to feel right," he explained. "I've been at Ringgold with the middle school and high school for about 18 years and there's been a lot of blood, sweat and tears. But with moving forward, you have to prioritize what you want to accomplish and your goals as a coach."
Elkins said the chance to perhaps one day coach his daughter was a big factor.
"There's never, technically, going to be a better time or a good time to leave," he added. "But the job came open, it may not open up again and I may not have another opportunity to stay so close to home and be able to coach my daughter. Plus, Coach Schexnaildre and I have a good relationship anyway and I just felt that this was the time to go."
Elkins will also serve as an assistant athletic director at Heritage, in addition to his duties with the Lady Generals' program.
"Greg brings 12 years of head coaching experience and he has certainly established himself to be one of the better coaches in our area," Schexnaildre said. "He brings the consistency and the integrity you want as a head coach. He's very organized and his attention to detail and basketball IQ have always been impressive to me. I also really admire his fire. He's real and he's energetic and I think his guys have fed off that. I always felt that he maximized his kids and got the best out of them.
"But the biggest thing for me is his relationship with his current and former players. They're really like an extension of his family...From a relational standpoint, I think our girls are going to love him."
This will be Elkins' first foray into coaching girls at this level.
"I've coached girls in little league YMCA ball, but this is going to be a different dynamic for sure," he added. "Basketball is basketball. You still demand a certain standard and set that up and you have expectations like you do for anything. I think it will be a learning experience and there will be a transition for sure, but I think it'll be fun and I'm really excited about it.
"They've had some good seasons over (at Heritage) and did a lot of good things under Coach Bryant and I know the assistant coaches there really well."
Ringgold High Athletic Director Lee Shell said Elkins would be tough to replace.
"First and foremost, Greg is a good friend of mine," he began. "I'm definitely not losing a friend, but we are losing an extremely good coach. He's definitely reminiscent of his mentor, Jerry Jones, in a lot of ways. He always seems to put together good teams that can compete and even with young talent, his teams found a way to compete well. It's a loss to us as a program because Greg gets out there and gets it done and he'll also be sorely missed in the classroom as well because he's a good teacher."
Shell said Ringgold will do its due diligence in finding the right fit for the program.
"Those are going to be big shoes to fill," he said. "I want to fill them with someone who love kids as much as he does and someone who will work as hard as he did."