Stockbridge is counting on Anthony Palmer to revive its struggling girls basketball program.
The 40-year-old, a first-year assistant last season with the Tigers, was promoted recently to head girls basketball coach. His mission is to improve a program that has found wins difficult to come by for the better part of the last decade, including a 2019-20 season when it went 4-20 and won just one game in region play.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Palmer, who has four daughters, one a rising freshman basketball player at Stockbridge. “It’s a challenge I’m looking forward to. We’ve got a lot of attitudes to fix, a culture change. We’ve got to make basketball fun again at Stockbridge. That’s the main goal, getting the girls energized and trying to get the girls to love basketball.”
More victories is part of that fun factor, too.
“I don’t think Stockbridge has won more than five games (in a season) in the last five years,” Palmer said. “Our goal for 2021 is to double that. And win a playoff game.”
Palmer and his family moved to McDonough four years ago, supporting Stockbridge and its programs through his son, a special needs student who passed away two years ago. Palmer coached with the school’s special needs flag football team, which included his late son.
He also took a special interest in the Tigers’ girls sports teams because of his daughters. He sees promise in the girls basketball program despite its past struggles.
“Basketball at Stockbridge, there’s a lot of good to look forward to,” Palmer said. “Where we came up short in the past is not developing a relationship with our feeder programs, with our middle schools. Stockbridge has two big middle schools feeding into it, Austin Road and Stockbridge. Over the last five or six years — Henry County is a school-choice county — a lot of girls that are supposed to go to Stockbridge have not gone to Stockbridge.
“By getting out in the community, developing those relationships with the middle school coaches, going to middle school practices, inviting middle school girls to our practices, getting to know parents, it’s going to be a big help.
“I’m fired up about the growth. I can see what’s coming through those halls. I’m excited because the parents are excited. I’m excited because my feeder program is excited. My coaches in middle school are excited about what we’re trying to put together.”
Palmer is an Atlanta native who played high school basketball at Douglass under legendary coach Jesse Bonner. He played college basketball briefly at Southern Poly, but admitted his playing career was cut short when he didn’t take advantage of his opportunities after high school.
“I’m real up front about my shortcomings,” Palmer said. “I tell my kids it took me eight years to finish my undergrad (at Georgia College) because I wasn’t taking things serious. I’m real up front about seizing the moment, not taking it for granted and giving it your all.”
Basketball coaching found its way into Palmer’s life first through the AAU level, initially with the Atlanta Celtics in the early 2000s and with the Georgia Stars. He worked in recreation centers in the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County, had a short stint at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and coached high school basketball for a season at Therrell before working predominantly as a basketball trainer. He also took time away from the sport to start his own business, a small trucking company.
He reentered the coaching world last season as a Stockbridge assistant, but takes on a much bigger role now. He is confident in the coaches joining him as assistants — Marquis Hicks (who has college experience at Georgia Tech and Point) and Michelle Jones (who coached at North Clayton).
“This being my first head coaching job, I wanted to put the best assistants, the best people around me,” Palmer said.
That trio plans on much better results from the program in the future.
“The Henry County community needs to know we’re bringing our A game,” Palmer said. “We’re coming to compete. The Stockbridge of old is not around anymore. The girls program won’t be the doormat it’s been for the last eight years. We will compete. That’s what we will do. We will compete.”