Benjie Wood has always looked at any coaching opportunity as a professional decision.
Nothing has changed with that philosophy, except the latest opportunity was a chance to go home.
On Monday, Wood was named the new boys basketball coach at Buford High, marking the end to his three seasons as Cherokee Bluff’s first boys basketball coach.
The news of his hire was made public with a press release from the Buford Schools on Tuesday morning.
“In this professional world, you make professional decisions,” said Wood, who graduated from Buford High in 1990. “This was different. There were a lot of people who have helped. It is my time to give back.”
At Cherokee Bluff, Wood guided the Bears to a 49-35 overall mark and back-to-back, second-round playoff appearances.
Now, Cherokee Bluff begins its search for a coach who will likely inherit a roster rich with experience and returning talent.
Wood said the pull to Buford was too strong to ignore, after former coach Eddie Martin stepped down after winning a pair of state championships in six seasons with the program.
“The timing is right,” Wood said. “I thought Cherokee Bluff would be my last stop. I love Cherokee Bluff, but it is hard to pass this up.
“God has perfect timing.”
With his departure at Cherokee Bluff, it ends Wood’s run of 21 seasons coaching some of the most successful programs in Hall County.
At Johnson, Wood coached the girls basketball program for six seasons and made it to the state semifinals in 2005 and 2006.
Then at North Hall, his seven-year run of success continued by taking its boys’ program to the state semifinals in 2010 and 2013.
Under Wood for five seasons, the Gainesville boys finished second in the state in 2018, after losing to Langston Hughes in the title game.
Then at Cherokee Bluff, Wood quickly turned the Bears into a contender, going to the second round of the playoffs in 2020 and 2021.
Even though he’s departing Hall County, it’s memories he will never forget.
“One thing I learned in life is to be happy where your feet are at,” he said.
His overall career mark is now 447-184, which includes his first season as a head coach of the Madison County boys in 1999.
The new Buford boys coach started his career as junior varsity coach and a varsity assistant coach at Madison County in 1994.
Martin, who had more than 30 years of coaching, left the Wolves’ program after six seasons. During that he amassed a 139-36 record and state titles in 2017 and 2019.
As soon as Wood’s name was linked to the Buford coaching vacancy, he said he was open and transparent with players and staff at Cherokee Bluff.
“My goal is to always put the kids first,” Wood said. “We use basketball to help kids. We will get to know the kids and listen to the kids. We want them to be successful on and off the court.”