PEACHTREE CORNERS — Jan Azar, the architect of Wesleyan's record 13 girls basketball titles and 571 wins, is stepping down.
Azar has been at the small private school for the last 22 years. She started the program from scratch and built it into the most successful in the state, winning more championships than any basketball coach in Georgia history.
The Wolves have played in the state finals 18 of the last 19 years.
The decision was announced jointly Friday by Azar, who also was an assistant athletic director, and Wesleyan's head of schools, Chris Cleveland. It is effective immediately.
“The last 22 years at Wesleyan have been fantastic and I’ve loved every minute,” Azar said in the release. “Building the program from scratch with the help of headmaster Zach Young and (then) athletic director Will Jackson, as well as the entire Wesleyan community, has given me tremendous satisfaction.
“More important than the wins and championships has been the opportunity Wesleyan gave me to positively impact the lives of so many girls who have graduated from Wesleyan and gone on to lead productive lives, as well as the interaction with my coaches and the families of my players.”
Azar, whose daughter, Nicole, was one of the Wolves' big outside threats as a sophomore this season, won't remain at the school in any capacity.
“It’s time to look for a new challenge, whether that’s coaching at the high school or college level, or building another program as athletic director,” she said.
“My future will depend on what is best for my family, as they are my top priority.”
Azar's final game of the season was 10 days ago in the Class A-Private state championship against rival Holy Innocents', which is coached by one of her former assistants, Nichole Dixon. The teams met for a fifth straight time with a title on the line and Dixon won her first as a head coach with a 75-48 rout. Azar's message to her team during a timeout with 2:25 left were words that easily define her own career — finish with character and class while still being aggressive and playing to the final whistle.
“I’m especially humbled and grateful to have been able to coach my current state runner-up team this season,” Azar said. “This year’s team was talented, resilient and a joy to coach. This team was full of kids who worked extremely hard and who played and conducted themselves with the highest character. Their behavior on and off the court while representing Wesleyan School was exemplary and is a direct reflection of the parenting they receive at home.
"I am honored that this group of girls was my last at Wesleyan.”
Azar was inducted into the Gwinnett County Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. She has coached more than 35 players who went onto college careers and eight McDonald's All-American nominees, including Gatorade Player of the Year Mikayla Coombs.
Her overall record of 571-113 equals a winning percentage of .834 and three teams finished in the Top 30 in ESPN’s season-ending national rankings.
Among the honors and awards Azar has earned during her time at Wesleyan are selection by Nike to coach the West squad in the 2017 Jordan Brand Classic in New York City, an all-star game featuring the top 24 high school players in the country, which her team won. She has been the recipient of the Bobby Cremins state Girls Coach of the Year (all classifications) and the Garland Pinholster state Girls Coach of the Year (Class A-AAAA) multiple times. Many media sources, including the Gwinnett Daily Post, have repeatedly recognized Azar as the coach of the year.
“Wesleyan will be eternally grateful to Coach Azar for not only her unmatched record of success on the basketball court, but for the significant impact she has had on the lives of her players and students over her 22-year career,” Cleveland said in a release. “In addition to her success in building a successful program, her tireless advocacy for empowering young women through athletics will be missed in our community. We wish her and her family nothing but the best in this new chapter of their lives.”
The only losing varsity season Wesleyan ever had was the first one. The Wolves won four games and Azar has said the goal was just to win more than they lost the next season. They did. Two years later, Wesleyan made its first appearance in the state final. The Wolves won their first title a year after that in 2002.