One of Northeast Georgia's most successful high school basketball programs is now looking for a new head coach.
Calling it the most difficult decision of his life, East Hall boys coach Joe Dix has announced he's leaving the Vikings program. He'll be accepting another coaching position, but declined to say where per request of his new employer.
"I've had offers in the past, but none of them seemed to fit what was best for me and my family," Dix said. "This one worked.
"After 16 years at East Hall, I'm ready for a new challenge. I've just got the urge to try to do it somewhere else."
Dix said he received the offer on Friday, took the weekend to mull it over, then let East Hall principal Jeff Cooper know of his decision Monday morning.
Cooper was not immediately available for comment.
Dix began as the East Hall ninth grade coach in 1996 and became the junior varsity coach in 1997. He assisted his predecessor Seth Vining to two state championships and won his own state title in his first season as head coach in 2004-2005.
In his eight years as head coach, Dix compiled a record of 187-52, including seven playoff appearances, three final fours, five Lanierland championships and three region titles.
"I'll be a Viking for life," Dix said. "It's been 16 really good years. The time is just right for me to move on."
The Vikings finished last season 22-8, falling to Manchester in the second round of the state playoffs.
They'll be losing six seniors from that team due to graduation, including leading scorer J.C. Hampton, The Times 2012 Player of the Year. But the cupboard won't be bare for the new Vikings coach.
East Hall is a perennial contender for region titles and a near-constant presence in the playoffs. Led by first-team All-Region selection Brian Edwards (17 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.1 steals) and sharpshooter Hayden Chapman (13.5 points, 40 percent 3s), the Vikings appear poised for continued success as they transition to a new region with a new coach.
When realignment goes into effect for the 2012-13 school year, the Vikings will compete in 7B-AAA with Banks County, Buford and West Hall. Subregion A teams include: Dawson County, Fannin County, North Hall and White County.