PEACHTREE CORNERS — On Friday morning, the only girls basketball head coach in Wesleyan history and winner of 13 state titles, Jan Azar, stepped down.
On Friday evening, Wesleyan athletic director Marc Khedouri announced her replacement.
Azar’s former player and assistant, Carolyn Whitney, has been hired to take over the program.
“As we embark upon a new direction for our varsity girls basketball program, we acknowledge the many contributions of Coach Jan Azar at Wesleyan both on the court and off the court,” Khedouri said in a release. “We will forever be grateful for her leadership of the girls and the program for the last 22 years.
“While Coach Whitney’s accomplishments as a player and a coach are laudable, neither are what characterize her most. Her most admirable qualities are the way she interacts with girls and what an outstanding role model she is. I have no doubt that she will continue to build upon the excellence that defines the girls program.”
Whitney has spent the last two years as the head coach at Brookwood. The Broncos won the Region 7-AAAAAAA title this year, made the state playoffs for the second straight season and Whitney was named region coach of the year.
“We want to thank Coach Whitney for all she’s done the last two years at Brookwood and we are sad to see her go,” said Jason Dopson, Brookwood’s athletic and activities director. “We knew when we hired her two years ago that we might eventually lose her to her alma mater, but we didn’t expect it to be this soon.
“She helped turn a very good program here at Brookwood into one of the premier basketball programs in AAAAAAA. We achieved great things under her leadership that included our first region championship in many years and a No. 1 seed in the state tournament.”
Leaving was not an easy decision for Whitney.
“Brookwood will forever be the place I had my first head coaching job,” Whitney said. “They took a chance on me and I just want to thank them, the players and parents and administration. They really have been like a second family. That’s why it was so hard to make this decision. The people are what makes Brookwood so special.”
The pull of her roots proved too great to resist.
“It’s been a dream of mine,” Whitney said. “I want to continue that championship tradition. I’m just excited to be going back.”
Prior to taking the job at Brookwood, Whitney was an assistant for two years at Lambert, though she took over as interim head coach during the postseason for a pregnant Jaime Fisher.
“I coached the first playoff game and I think I had two days to prepare,” Whitney said with a laugh. “But we ended up getting fifth in state, which was the best finish in school history.”
It was Azar who talked Whitney into coaching in the first place.
“Jan is such an important person in my life and what she has done for so many young women, including myself, that’s what it is all about,” Whitney said. “I wish her nothing but the best.”
Azar lured her former player back to Wesleyan as an assistant in 2010 as a community coach and later made her a varsity assistant. Whitney was part of four state titles in five years, adding to the three she helped the Wolves win as a player (2004, 2005, 2006).
Her record for career assists — 645 — still stands. Whitney finished with 1,322 points, making her the eighth-leading scorer in a Wesleyan history which includes players such as Mikayla Coombs, Holli Wilkins, Anne Marie Armstrong and Nikki Luckhurst.
Whitney was a McDonald’s All-American nominee, a NCSAA All-American and a two-time all-state player.
She went on to collegiate success at Georgia Southern, earning the conference’s freshman of the year honors in 2007. A tenacious player in the mold Azar insisted on for 22 years, Whitney was frequently among the national leaders in free-throw percentage and led the Eagles in assists all four years of her career.
Whitney graduated from Georgia Southern in 2010 and earned her master’s from Georgia State in health and physical education.
Wesleyan’s spring break started Friday so Whitney will wait until next week to talk to the players. She’s finishing out the school year at Brookwood, but will certainly hit the ground running at Wesleyan. Whitney intends to carry on with the style of play she learned from Azar and which has stood Wesleyan in such good stead for 22 years.
“We will be playing fast,” Whitney said. “I can’t do slow.
“I just can’t wait to meet the team and get started.”
Dopson has begun the process of finding Whitney’s replacement.
“The girls basketball job at Brookwood is one of the more sought-after positions in the state and we are already receiving a tremendous amount of interest from some fantastic coaches,” he said. “We have the majority of our talent from our region championship team returning and our incoming eighth grade class will be one the most talented groups in the state. Coaches around the entire country have contacted us and local coaches know the talented group of players we have coming back.
“I told the team the other day they have made mine and (Principal) Mr. (Bo) Ford’s job a lot easier this time because lots of coaches want to coach them. Finding another extremely talented coach, such as Coach Whitney, is our primary focus and there is no doubt we will do just that.”