CONYERS -- After spending the last four years coaching at both Cross Creek and Social Circle, Brian Anderson’s itch to get back to a big-time basketball program in the state of Georgia reached a boiling point this spring.
With five years under his belt as the head coach at Grayson from 2007-12 and a two-year stint as an assistant at Shiloh, where he helped coach current Minnesota Timberwolves standout Josh Okogie, Anderson didn’t waste much time throwing his name into a hat of candidates at Heritage.
With former Patriots head coach Vernon Denmark leaving for Stockbridge, Anderson won over the Patriots’ brass with both his wealth of experience and his eagerness to continue the success the program saw under Denmark’s direction.
“I sold myself with the experience of running bigger programs,” Anderson said. “The ability to handle moving parts. Obviously my experience with coaching high school, but also with my contacts with colleges in not just Georgia, but in the southeast. I know there are guys here that can play at the next level and that excites me.”
In Anderson’s last two stops at Cross Creek and Social Circle, the veteran coach helped bring near instant success to the respective programs. At Cross Creek, Anderson helped snap an eight-year playoff drought in his first year. At Social Circle, Anderson helped guide them to 18 wins this past season.
Inheriting the Social Circle program before the start of the 2017-18 season, one that had won just two games in each of the two years prior to his arrival, Anderson said he was proud of what he and his players were able to accomplish there.
“My first year, we won six games and this past year, we went 18-8,” Anderson said. “My goal was to turn the program in the right direction and the speed in which you do that isn’t as important as setting the course of direction. To go from six wins to 18 was exciting for me. The guys bought in and it was all because of those guys.”
With Heritage fresh off back-to-back trips to the Class AAAAAA Final Four, Anderson said it will be a much different feel this go around, despite graduating a large crop of seniors.
“I’m all about changing the culture, but there’s not a lot to change here because its a winning tradition,” Anderson said. “We’re losing a lot of talent, but I believe that there’s talent here in these neighborhoods and I want to parade what’s here. I’m just looking for a bigger challenge, coaching more guys and having a true program. A 9th, JV and a varsity. Social Circle is a smaller school and I enjoyed my time there, but it was time for a new challenge and a change of scenery.”
Anderson’s first season as the Patriots’ head coach will mark his 21st season coaching basketball. Heritage will be his fourth stop as a head coach. Anderson was also able to keep two Heritage assistant coaches on board, including Doug Butler, who previously served under Denmark.
Already having the opportunity to meet with the Patriots’ returning players, Anderson said his message to the team was simple.
“Just to be a sponge and to buy into what they’re going to be presented with,” Anderson said. “We’ve had two practices so far and a lot of the stuff that I’m introducing them to is new to them. Whether it’s the five-man weave or different things that I’ve picked up, my message to them has just been to buy in and soak up everything that we’re throwing at them.”
Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, don’t be afraid to ask questions. That’s what summer ball is for. I’m enjoying the grind right now and getting to know them.”
While he said it will take some time to figure out the best way to coach the current crop of Patriots, his playing style of years’ past won’t change too much.
“Of course, I’m going to adapt to their skill set, but from what I’ve seen so far, there will probably be a lot of ball movement,” Anderson said. “Last year at Social Circle, I had four guys average between 9.5 and 15.5 points per game. That’s four guys in double figures just about and that’s a testimony to the style that I like to play. I like the ball to be moving and then either shooting it, dunking it or creating a better pass. It will be fun.”
The Patriots’ month of June will be highlighted by a team camp held at Georgia Tech later this month, as well as a trip to Monroe Area for some live-game action.
“We’re going to go to Georgia Tech’s team camp and we’re going to go to a summer league up at Monroe Area and Winder-Barrow,” Anderson said. “We’re also going to play Habersham Central and Winder-Barrow again. We’re looking to play 13-15 games in June and then AAU in July.”
Prior to Anderson’s five-year stint as the head coach at Grayson, he served five years as an assistant at Habersham Central. Prior to that, he coached for four years as an assistant at Truett McConnell University.