You learn a lot by visiting someone where he works. Rain pours and it’s still dark outside as a Holy Innocents’ senior performs her early-morning basketball drills alone in the high school’s gym. Sydney Long halts her work and beams at the mention of Tony Watkins’ name. ‘He’s my coach,’ she says.
Sydney is heading to Furman to study and to play basketball, but this year she is limited to drills as she recovers from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Coach Tony Watkins appears and encourages her --- ‘We really miss her shooting,’ he says. Later, at the assistant athletic director’s office he occupies, colleagues pretend to be indignant when he introduces the guest from NYO. In fact, they are proud of their guy.
At the end of this school year, he, too, will leave Holy Innocents’. He has taught sixth-grade geography and coached girls’ varsity basketball there since 2008. From a talented pool of more than 300 applicants, Tony has emerged to succeed Jane Wilkins, NYO’s executive director of 35 years. The NYO board took care in a letter announcing the change to say ‘there is no replacing Jane . . . the heart and soul of NYO.’
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