by Andrew Stark
Amanda Hawthorne was happy coaching the Carmel Middle School girls basketball team the past three seasons. But when the opportunity to take over at Independence High School presented itself recently, she felt she had to take it.
“Coaching a varsity team is something I have always wanted to do, and I am excited for this opportunity,” Hawthorne said. “Basketball has always been in my blood, and I love every aspect of coaching – the workouts, the practices – and I’m just looking forward to working with the girls and getting them ready to compete.”
While attending high school in Verona, N.Y., Hawthorne was the first girls basketball player from her school to score 1,000 points in a career. She also played soccer and softball, and earned a scholarship to Loyola University (Md.) to play basketball before a knee injury derailed her career.
Hawthorne led Carmel to an undefeated season and a conference championship. She helped Carmel improve each year, taking the team from 3-11 to 9-5 to 14-0.
Before taking the Carmel job, Hawthorne coached in Florida at Coral Gables Middle School and at the North Broward Academy of Excellence. Being a high school coach has been her dream, though, and when she saw the Independence job posted online, she jumped at the chance to apply.
“Middle school is fun, but it is hard because there isn’t enough time to build a program because the kids come in and move to high school so quickly,” Hawthorne said. “I am really excited for my chance to build a high school program. I am ready to get the ball rolling.”
Last season, the Patriots had a 6-18 overall record and were 5-9 in the Southwestern 4A conference under former coach Natalie Davis. They reached the state tournament but lost in the first round.
Hawthorne, who has met with Patriots players already, said she was aware that the team lacked depth last year, and she hopes she can drum up interest in the team and get more girls to try out.
Hawthorne expects her first year at Independence to be a learning experience as she implements an up-tempo offense and high-energy pressure defense.
“The first year may be a rebuilding season,” Hawthorne said. “I will be getting used to (the players), and they’ll be getting used to me. The first season isn’t about wins and losses but developing a competitive program. I want to build a program that is a consistent winner, but first I have to build the groundwork. I am just excited to get going.”