TIFTON, Ga. — Several personnel changes were announced at Tuesday's Tift County board of education meeting. For local athletics fans, one of the most prominent of these changes affects high school boys basketball.
Head coach Chris Wade is moving to the Turner County school system, where he will be an assistant principal at Turner County High and athletic director of all sports.
"I'm a basketball coach at heart," he said Wednesday. "Professionally, it's the right move."
Tift County athletic director Rusty Smith said a coaching search has been opened for Wade's replacement.
Wade took over for Dr. Eric Holland in 2017. Holland previously brought him to Tifton to shore up Tift County's defense. His work immediately paid off with a state title in 2014. A second followed in 2017.
In two seasons as head coach, Wade led the Blue Devils to two region titles. They made state in 2018 and just this March, played in the Class AAAAAAA state semifinals, falling to Meadowcreek. Over that stretch, the team has a record of 41-15.
Tift never lost a Region 1 game during Wade's tenure.
Wade said there is "a lot of potential, a lot of promise" in Turner's athletic program. MaxPreps lists nine sports at the school: baseball, basketball, football, golf, soccer, softball, track, volleyball and wrestling. Football, girls basketball and wrestling all made state in bracketed sports in 2019.
Several coaches will be as new as he is to the Turner County school system. Softball, he said, has a new head coach. Earlier this year, the Rebels hired Nick Hayes to lead football.
Though this will be Wade's first stint at a Class A school, he is already familiar with Turner from their basketball clashes with Tift County and from his days in Americus, both at Americus High and South Georgia Technical College (SGTC).
At SGTC, "I recruited Turner frequently," he said.
His experiences in his new roles have been good so far. Wade has met several players. "They're all respectful," he said.
The decision to leave Tift County was difficult, both in terms of players and compatriots.
Wade has been away from coaching before, but admitted it's tough.
He said he'll miss the personal relationships he had with players. "I'll miss the time in the locker room," Wade said.
It was hard to leave the Tift coaching staff.
"We had a really good staff," he said. He does not limit that to his assistant coaches, or even just basketball. Wade's been known to tease other Blue Devils coaches on Twitter and said he is close with them.
Tift will be an ideal job for any candidate. The program has won three state championships, seven straight region titles and its streak of 25 state tournament appearances is the longest currently of all boys' programs in Georgia.
"They'll get a ton of good candidates," said Wade.