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Panthers searching for new head coach

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With the basketball season-opener at Jefferson County on Tuesday, the Lakeside boys basketball team finds itself without a head coach.

Faced with a looming Nov. 30 three-percent drop in pensions under the Georgia Teacher Retirement System, head coach John Kucela signed his retirement papers Monday afternoon.

“It was kind of a last-minute decision to do it,” said Kucela, who was entering his third season as Panthers head coach. “I’ve got the time in, 30-something years. It was a decision I had to go ahead and make.”

Lakeside athletic director Donnie Burch understood the decision.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Burch said. “You want to think about the program, but you want to think about the next 20 years of your life, too.”

Burch said that Kucela, a special education teacher, isn’t the only teacher to put in retirement papers ahead of the deadline, and that his decision actually helps the school.

“He has to resign for us to be able to post the (teaching) position,” Burch said. “In a weird way it kind of helps us (by) him doing it earlier.”

Because a school employee has to be the official coach, girls coach Jody Hilley will be the sponsor while current assistant coach Kealen Diehl takes the lead.

Burch thinks the team is going to respond just fine.

“Offenses and defenses have already been installed, now it’s just a matter of repetition and fine-tuning,” he said. “They’re a great solid core of guys. This is the year for it to happen and they can handle it.”

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