Looking for a winner, a motivator and a coach with college connections, South Gwinnett took about a month to fill its open girls basketball position with a person, athletic director Rodney Born said, who fits all three criteria.
South hired Kidada Holtzclaw to lead its girls basketball program this week, hiring a coach who turned Alcovy's program from a five-win team in her first season to a Class AAAA state semifinalist four seasons later.
"We wanted to make sure we made a decision that was the absolute best person, that was going to be the best fit," Born said. "A lot of it had to do with her experience."
A player at Alabama, Holtzclaw coached at colleges across the country, from Stephen F. Austin in Texas to Marshall in West Virginia to Austin Peay in Tennessee to Troy in Alabama. She coached against LSU in the NCAA Tournament. But while coaching in college, she decided she wanted to pursue a head coaching position and took her first lead job at Alcovy in Conyers.
There, she took over a team that had won less than 10 games in the previous two seasons and by her second year, the Tigers were back in the state tournament. Two years after that, the Tigers reached the Final Four.
"That was a big challenge," Holtzclaw said. "I just had to come in and change the outlook and the attitude about athletics at Alcovy.
"We were able to have a lot of success in a short amount of time."
Her task at South isn't as tall. The Comets are just a year removed from a state playoff berth and in 2006 and 2007 reached the state finals, losing to Maya Moore and Collins Hill both years. That level of competition and support is what drew Holtzclaw to South.
"Everybody knows about the reputation of Gwinnett athletics, how important it is, how the community gets behind you," Holtzclaw said.
Holtzclaw will teach health and physical education at South, filling the role left by the resigning coach Jamie Fisher, now at Lambert. Her commitment to teaching was also a draw for Born, who said he couldn't find an example of a single parent and Holtzclaw having trouble getting along.
"Nobody could say anything about her that was negative in any way," he said. "We are very excited to have her. We really feel like we got somebody that is going to help us compete for a region title, which is what we need to be doing starting this year with the girls that we have coming back."