For Benjie Wood, it’s the right time and the right place.
For Flowery Branch, it’s the perfect fit.
Wood, the successful North Hall boys basketball coach, accepted the same position at Flowery Branch High on Thursday morning.
Former Falcons coach Duke Mullis announced his resignation Monday.
“We set up the interview yesterday or the day before, they offered me the job this morning and I accepted,” Wood said. “This has gone really fast.”
Flowery Branch athletic director Shannon Benton, a friend and neighbor of his new coach, had an easy explanation for the quick timetable.
“Bottom line is, if the person you’d like to take over is willing and able to take over, there’s no sense in waiting,” he said. “I think it’s going to revive a lot of excitement in our community. He’s certainly well-known in this community and has had great success, and we’re glad that it worked out.”
Wood is 280-122 overall coaching both boys and girls basketball, including a successful stint with the Johnson girls — he’s been in the Hall County school system for 13 years — before taking over at North Hall. This past season he led the Trojans (28-4), along with talented senior guard Ebo Smith and a solid team, to the semifinals of the Class AAA state tournament, an experience he said he certainly won’t forget.
“The memories made from these kids this year will never be forgotten by anybody,” Wood said. “With the NCAA Tournament going on now, they play One Shining Moment at the end, and our kids had numerous one shining moments this year, and they deserved everything that came their way.”
North Hall athletic director Harold Daniels said he understood the reasons for Wood’s leaving.
“He’s been wanting to get closer to home for a few years now, and I think it’s very good for him and his family,” Daniels said. “We’ve had a good run with Benjie and a lot of memories; he’s helped a lot of kids, and we’ve had a great relationship.
"Flowery Branch is getting a great coach.”
Daniels added that North Hall will begin the search for a new coach quickly, one that will keep the program on the same course that Wood set it on from when he first arrived for the 2006-2007 season. His team made the state tournament six out of seven seasons and reached the state semifinals twice.
“We want to name a coach as soon as we can to keep the program going in a positive direction,” Daniels said. “I’m sure there will be a lot of interest.”
Wood will be looking to bring the same kind of success to Flowery Branch, which finished 9-18 in Region 8-AAAAA this season and fell to Gainesville in the second round of the region tournament.
“In the coach’s career, there’s always a time to make a change, there are new challenges out there, and sometimes that’s what gets coaches to make a decision,” Benton said. “And this is a real challenge — we’re in a good, good region.
“But he’s competitive and he enjoys the thrill of the challenge.”
Beyond the court, the coaching change is a good fit for Wood because of the proximity to his home in Chestnut Mountain, just an eight-minute drive from the school.
“My daughter starts first grade next year, my son is 16 months old, so it’s just time for me to be closer to my family,” Wood said. “It’s just a really good fit.”
And, while Wood will remain a teacher at North Hall until the end of the school year, he’s already started to tackle the task of running a basketball team.
The former Trojans coach is ready to dive into the Falcons community.
“We know it’s a tough challenge, but I’m really excited about getting in the community and getting to know the kids,” Wood said. “We’re throwing up our shirt sleeves and going to work.”
And his new school couldn’t be happier to have him.
“It’s the right time, right job, right location for him,” Benton said. “And we’re tickled to death that he was willing to come and take over.”