Benjie Wood says the last few days have been nothing short of gut wrenching. He knew making his second coaching change since the 2013 season ended with North Hall’s trip to the semifinals would be frowned upon by some.
“In the end, I had to do what’s best for my family,” Wood said. “These past few days, I’ve spent a lot of alone time in prayer.”
Wood was named the new boys coach at Gainesville High on Tuesday, following a Gainesville School Board meeting called earlier in the day to approve the hire. Wood’s move comes just five weeks after he accepted the job to coach at Flowery Branch and fill the position left vacant when Duke Mullis stepped down at the end of the Falcons’ season.
Wood, who has a 280-122 career record and three trips to the state semifinals between two programs, said he initially turned down Gainesville athletic director Wayne Vickery’s probe into requesting an interview.
Wood said he even supplied Vickery with a list of coaches he felt would be great for the position, which came open April 18 when former coach Todd Cottrell accepted the same position at Lakeview Academy.
“I was persistent and kept after him,” Vickery said. “We have a great tradition and great facilities here at Gainesville.
“We’re going to reach out for coach that we feel is the best fit for the job.”
The new Gainesville High coach is excited to inherit a program that played for the Class AAAAA state championship this past season.
“I’m stepping in to a program with a great tradition and try to put a little twinkle on it,” Wood added.
Wood says that over the last couple weeks he reached out to neutral coaches with no ties to Gainesville and
Flowery Branch to talk over his decision. He knew it was going to be tough to step away from a program before he even took the job full time.
“Coach Wood is looking out for his family and doing what’s best for them,” Flowery Branch athletic director Shannon Benton said. “I can’t begrudge him for that.”
Wood was initially hired as Flowery Branch coach on March 21 to replace Mullis. He says practices and workouts were already initiated, including workouts with Falcons players to prepare for next season, before agreeing to take the job at Gainesville.
“I’ve shared text messages with the players at Flowery Branch and they were very supportive of my decision,” Wood said. “They wished me the best.”
In seven seasons at North Hall, Wood led the Trojans to the state semifinals in 2010 and 2013. He also took the Johnson High girls to the state semifinals in 2005.
Benton said the search has already started at Flowery Branch to replace Wood. He said the school already has a long list of interested and successful candidates.
“(New school principal Jason Carter) and I will take time to look over all the resumés and wade through them all to find the best fit for our program,” Benton said.