The last time Chris Luke was Providence Christian’s head girls basketball coach, the school’s sports teams were still called the Stars. It was well before the Lilburn private school’s rebranding to the Storm.
At the end of her tenure — she stepped down after the 2001-2002 season — she coached while pregnant with her middle daughter. That daughter has graduated from Hebron Christian and her son is a senior at the University of Georgia (her youngest is a rising high school sophomore), and Luke’s coaching journey has come full circle.
Twenty years later, she is Providence’s head girls basketball coach again.
The school recently announced Luke as the replacement for the outgoing Seth Kindig.
“I was lucky then (as Providence’s coach) and now, and I’ve been lucky to be part of a few really good programs and learn from some really good coaches,” Luke said. “I literally get a do-over. It really is completely full circle. It came about fast and furious. I totally believe God had his hand on it.”
Luke has coached the past two seasons at Hebron, serving as a varsity assistant to Jan Azar and as coach of a junior varsity team that went unbeaten this past season. She helped the Lions to the Class A Private state title last season before the Providence opportunity opened up.
“Someone from (Providence) reached out and said their coach stepped down, I think at the end of May,” Luke said. “I just started talking to the athletic director and seeing what was available for teaching and it all fell in place.”
Luke was Providence’s junior varsity coach from 1997-99 before becoming head girls coach. She led the program from the 1999-2000 through the 2001-02 seasons, reaching the Sweet Sixteen of the state tournament twice. She moved backed to Michigan shortly after her final season at Providence, and coached as an assistant at Rockford High with Steve Majerle (brother of former NBA standout Dan), but the family wanted a move back to Georgia.
Upon the return to Georgia, Luke was a community coach at Lambert the first year it opened. From there, she joined forces with Azar as Wesleyan’s longtime middle school coach, working with both the girls and boys programs during her eight years at the Peachtree Corners school. She rejoined Azar at Hebron the past two seasons.
Now the two will coach against each other in loaded Region 5-A Private.
“I am really excited that Chris will be the new coach at Providence Christian,” Azar said. “We met when we began our careers coaching against each other when she was at Providence and I was at Wesleyan and we had a great time coaching together over the years. We will miss her on our staff at Hebron. Chris has always done a great job getting the most out of her players and I have no doubt she will continue that as she grows the Providence program. They are getting a great coach and person. I am just glad that she isn’t going too far and we will continue to see each other in region play.”
Luke’s task will be difficult in 5-A Private, which features last season’s state champion (Hebron), two other Final Four teams (Galloway and Holy Innocents’) and longtime powerhouse Wesleyan. Hebron, Holy Innocents’ and Wesleyan have combined to win the last five state titles in A Private.
Providence hasn’t been competitive with the region’s elite, and has struggled in girls basketball regularly since Luke left the program. The Storm went 8-13 last season, which was preceded by records of 5-21, 3-23 and 0-26 the previous three seasons. The program’s last winning season was 17-11 in 2012-13 and it has reached double figures in wins only once since that season, going 11-15 in 2016-17.
“I’m really excited, super excited about being back at Providence,” Luke said. “Out of all the other places I’ve been, Providence always had a special feel to it. I still do know some people there. I’m excited about being back and I’ve had some workouts with some of the girls already. They have a desire to work hard. We have a lot of work to do, but we’ll put one foot in front of the other. … We couldn’t be in a tougher region and honestly, we will probably take our lumps this year. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but the girls are eager.”