Flowery Branch High didn’t have to look far to find its next boys basketball coach.
All it took was a glance 30 minutes southeast of campus, across I-85 and into neighboring Winder to find the Falcons’ next leader on the court, David Sokol.
Sokol was hired as head coach on Monday, according to a statement released Monday by Hall County Schools Director of Community Relations and Athletics Gordon Higgins.
The former Winder-Barrow High coach heads to Flowery Branch to replace Duke Mullis, who resigned from the position following the 2012-2013. Benjie Wood was originally slated to serve as head coach, but he left for the same job at Gainesville a month after his hiring in April.
“He’s a good quality coach,” Flowery Branch athletic director Shannon Benton said. “He does a great job, and puts a good team out on the court. He’s very professional and knowledgeable, and I feel like he’ll be a good leader for our program.”
Sokol was not available for comment Monday night.
Sokol joins the Falcons program with familiarity of their opponents, particularly within Region 8-AAAAA. Flowery Branch has shared a region with Winder-Barrow since 2010, when the Falcons made the jump from Class AAA to AAAA. Both schools moved to Class AAAAA last year.
The Bulldoggs have remained competitive during that span, including a 21-7 mark in the 2009-2010 season that included a trip to the Class AAAA state playoffs.
Winder-Barrow went 13-13 last season. It fell one game short of another state playoff berth.
Sokol will face much of the same competition he’s grown accustomed to while with the Bulldoggs, but will also face the daunting task of battling through a tough Hall County schedule during the annual Lanierland Tournament in January.
“I’m sure it’s going to help him in knowing what the competition is like and what everyone else has,” Benton said. “It’s not going to be cold turkey going into the season against new opponents.”
Benton’s Falcons found out the hard way what kind of team Sokol is capable of assembling on Dec. 4, when Winder-Barrow defeated Flowery Branch 52-51 on a buzzer beater.
Sokol defeated the Falcons again on Jan. 18, 56-43.
“Not that it was a determining factor, but it gave me an opportunity to see him coach over the last three or four years,” Benton said. “So I’ve been familiar with the kinds of things he’s put on the floor, and I think he’ll do a great job.”
Benton said he selected Sokol from three finalists that were chosen out of a pool of about 50 candidates.
Flowery Branch, which went 9-18 last season, almost didn’t need to make such a lengthy search. The Falcons hired Wood in March, bringing in the former North Hall coach who had led the Trojans to the Class AAA state semifinals just a month earlier.
But after Gainesville and former Flowery Branch coach Todd Cottrell left for Lakeview Academy in the offseason, Wood accepted the Red Elephants position on April 30, leaving an opening at Flowery Branch.
Sokol is now responsible for getting the Falcons back to the state playoffs for the first time since 2009. They have suffered three consecutive losing seasons.
“(Flowery Branch principal Jason Carter and I) both were really impressed with what he had to say and how he handled himself, and what his plans for the future of our program would be,” Benton said. “We wanted to give him the opportunity to take it and run with it.”
Prior to his tenure with Winder-Barrow, Sokol coached at South Forsyth High in Cumming from 2002-2009. He led the War Eagles to three 20-win seasons and reached the second round of the state playoffs in 2003, 2004 and 2008.
Outside of the high school ranks, Sokol also served as an assistant coach at Georgia College and State University.