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Burgess hopes to replicate his success
School looks to replace two head coaches
1. Burgess is leaving DCHS pic
Coach Thad Burgess chats with students Ryan Gallenkamp, from left, Josh Long and Kolton Brumbelow in the Dawson County gymnasium after the announcement that Burgess would be moving on. - photo by Amy French Dawson County News

One of the winningest coaches in Dawson County High School history is moving on with hopes of repeating that success elsewhere.

"I am excited, a new chance to kind of do what I had to do here," said boys' head basketball coach Thad Burgess about his departure.

Burgess will move at the end of his school year contract to take a position as head basketball coach at Oconee County High School in Watkinsville.

"He's been here for 13 years. He's done about everything you could do here," said Dawson County High School Athletic Director Grady Turner. "This was a good opportunity. It's a good move for him."

Also moving on is Burgess' assistant basketball Coach Wes Greer. He is the head coach of the girls' golf team and has accepted a position as the head girls' basketball coach with Elbert County High School in Elberton.

"We are losing two really good coaches," Turner said. "I think the world of both men. We will try to replace them with equal quality and that will be hard to do, but we will do our best."

Burgess is a coaching veteran with 29 years of experience coaching not only basketball, but also football and baseball. He is the second winningest boys' coach in Dawson County history and third on the all-time wins list.

He came to Dawson County in 2003 from Walker High School in Jasper, Ala., where he coached the basketball team to a county championship.

During his tenure with the Tigers he has taken the team to the state playoffs seven of the last 10 years, including the team's first playoff appearance since 1980.

The program made two Sweet Sixteen appearances and made it to the Elite Eight in 2012. That same year the Tigers received a No. 1 ranking in the state at one point during the season.

"It's been kinda neat to kinda build this thing where it is. We were the first ones to get the excitement going, get the people involved," Burgess said. "We haven't won as much the last couple of years but it's in a cycle. That cycle is really fixing to change over.

"A new guy will come in and probably have the chance to win the region the next couple of years. It's a great job. It's going to be a great opportunity for somebody," he said.

The successful coach will be starting again at the AAAA school in Oconee County with hopes of getting that program to the level he's achieved at Dawson County.

"Basketball is big in that community," he said. "It's got a lot of similarities as when I first got here. There's a lot of excitement. It's going to take a little time."

Burgess has been moved by the outpouring of support since the news of his departure has gotten out.

Will Anglin, a Dawson County alumnus, played for Burgess during the team's history making season with the Elite Eight appearance.

"The main thing I learned from him was the willingness to win," Anglin said. "He put us on the map and taught us what winning was about. I learned more from him than just about anybody."

"It's very gratifying. The emails, texts and calls from former players, friends and people in the community over the last three days will be something I never forget," Burgess said.

Having grown up in a college town near Auburn, Ala., Burgess is thrilled to think of living near Athens in Watkinsville where the family has many connections.

"My daughter was actually married there, great, great school system. It was just, the timing was good," he said.

His twin daughters Haley and Lauren will graduate in the spring. All four of his daughters will have graduated from Dawson County and he feels it is the best time for his family to move on.

"I had chances to go over the last 10 years, but I felt like this is the place I needed to be. I wanted to allow my girls to go K-12. They went all 13 years through the school system," he said. "It's a great school system. I just didn't ever want to move them."

Burgess believes it will be a smooth transition for the boys' team despite losing coaches.

"I have a really good relationship with them and their parents, so I will make sure it's done right," he said. "I will make sure everything is good here.

"I am going to miss our guys because I am close to them. You know I've been here to see them in the elementary leagues and go all the way through. I am going to miss them more than they are going to miss me," he said.

The board of education will be asked to approve Burgess' resignation during the April 18 meeting, according to School Superintendent Damon Gibbs. Principal Richard Crumley will begin interviewing candidates for his replacement in the near future.