KNIGHTDALE — The Knightdale basketball team won’t have its veteran head coach when the 2013-14 season begins next winter.
Nine-year coach Battle Watkins verbally accepted an offer a few weeks ago to become the athletic director and boys basketball coach at Carroll Middle School. Paperwork making the move official was approved by the county Friday.
The opportunity at Carroll was one Watkins said he couldn’t pass on. Watkins, his wife and four children live in the north Raleigh middle school community.
“It gets tougher and tougher when your kids get older and there’s more demands,” he said. “As a parent, your first responsibility is to your family and your wife. Being five minutes away cuts down on time away to some extent.
“The challenge of going to a new place with a new set of hurdles is exciting like it was nine years ago when I came to Knightdale.”
Watkins met with his players last week to fill them in on his future plans. He said the news wasn’t easy to swallow for some on the Knightdale team, but ultimately the players were supportive of his decision.
“They know how I feel about them,” Watkins said. “It’s not like I’m leaving them because of something they’ve done or that (Carroll) is a better school as opposed to a personal decision.
“It’s hard for me, obviously, because I’ve been there nine years and it’s been almost the last decade of my life. I have to trust that moving forward the program will support them as players, students and young men.”
Knightdale Athletic Director Guy Blough said his next basketball coach will have big shoes to fill, but thinks the program will continue to be competitive thanks to the foundation Watkins laid.
“It’s big,” Blough said of losing Watkins. “He’s been here since we opened the school. He’s had a great run – we’ve been competitive and in it.”
Knightdale teams coached by Watkins compiled a record of 133-111 over the last nine years. Since the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference was formed eight years ago, the Knights’ total league count stands at 94-45.
The Knights made the sectional finals in the state playoffs two times (2008-09, 2009-10), won the Greater Neuse River Conference tournament once and the league regular season once under Watkins’ leadership.
“What people want to hear after X number of years is statistics,” Watkins said. “The wins are great, but my highlight has been the relationship with the kids over the nine years and the process of seeing them become young men. Those will be what you remember.”
Watkins credited the Knightdale community for the success of his teams over the years and other functions he helped organize at the school.
“I was always proud to be a Knight and serve the community, and I’ll always be a Knight at heart,” he said.
Blough said there are strong on-campus candidates for the head coaching position at Knightdale. Varsity girls coach Anthony Byrd and junior varsity boys coach Jay Creecy are veterans in their respective programs. Who will be hired, however, “is all about teaching positions,” according to Blough.
“Basketball is like football – it starts almost as soon as the summer starts - so we’ve got to get someone in here pretty quick,” Blough said.