Amanda Heil’s memorable year added another highlight Monday, when the 1997 North Gwinnett grad was named the new head girls basketball coach at her alma mater.
She takes over for Bryan Sellers, who resigned earlier this month after seven seasons in charge of the program to spend more time with his family. It’s the first varsity head coaching job for Heil, a longtime middle school head coach in Gwinnett at both Sweetwater and Creekland.
She spent the 2016-17 season as a varsity assistant for Sellers.
“I’m excited about having a chance to take over the program I played in,” the 37-year-old said. “North for lot of years had a very rich tradition in girls basketball. We’re ready to start working to get back to that level again.”
Heil, a lifelong Suwanee resident, wanted to join Sellers’ basketball staff at North for several years but health and physical education openings are scarce — and coveted when hiring assistant coaches for large football staffs — at the high school level. It finally worked out for her prior to the 2016-17 season, when she was hired as a varsity girls basketball assistant.
She also joined her old high school coach, Randy Black, as an assistant softball coach last fall when the Bulldogs won their first state championship in fastpitch softball. The victory came not long after her oldest son Cade, a a North senior, made a college commitment to the North Georgia baseball program.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the school year,” the mother of three said.
Heil lettered four years in both basketball and softball at North, playing the latter sport for two seasons at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. She played basketball for the Bulldogs under longtime coach Phil Hall.
“We’re in contact all the time,” Heil said of Hall. “He sends me messages four or five times a year. It was nice when I used to coach (in middle school) and he made it to the championship games. He’d be in the stands for those games. … It was just the pure respect with him and how hard that I wanted to play for him. I try to get the same out of my girls. Coach Hall is one you never wanted to let him down. You never wanted to disappoint him. For me, when you get girls to buy into that type of program, those types of expectations, you get so much more out of them. He did the best job of getting the most out of his kids, no matter what talent level he had. The fundamentals, the conditioning, the approach to the game. They played hard for him. My goal is get good, quality kids and get the most out of them that I can.”
Heil spent three years as a girls basketball coach at Sweetwater early in her career, guiding to the program to an unbeaten season and division title in 2005. She also won a division title at Creekland, where she worked for 10 years. She was a middle school head coach from 2003-14 before taking a two-season hiatus for the birth of her third child.
She returned to coaching this season at North under Sellers, whose tenure featured a trip to the Final Four in 2012 and a state runner-up finish in 2013. The Bulldogs haven’t had the talent pool to draw from of late, though, winning 10 games in 2015-16 and six this past season.
However, the future is bright. The North Gwinnett Middle girls won the Gwinnett County tournament last week.
“It’s very exciting (to be named head coach),” Heil said. “We were very young (this past season). We just graduate two seniors this year. And obviously our eighth-grade program just won the overall Gwinnett County championship, which was super exciting. I was able to watch them a few times this season. It’s exciting to see this young talent come up through the program.”
THE HEIL FILE
Name: Amanda Heil
New position: Head girls basketball coach at North Gwinnett
Former position: Assistant girls basketball at North Gwinnett
Career record: First high school head coaching job
Education: Graduated from North Gwinnett High School in 1997; earned degree in health and physical education from Kennesaw State
Background: Spent the 2016-17 season as assistant coach with the North varsity girls basketball program; was head girls basketball coach at Sweetwater Middle, and then Creekland Middle, from 2003-14; coached three seasons at Sweetwater and 10 at Creekland; four-year varsity letter-winner in both basketball and softball at North; played two seasons of softball at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, helping team to third-place nationally as a freshman; son Cade is a North senior who is committed to the North Georgia baseball program for college
Family: Husband Jason; sons Cade, 18 and Dane, 7; daughter Parker, 1