Anthony Lawrence, one of Dan Wright's finest players, will succeed the local legend as Lakewood's boys basketball coach.
Athletic director Deb Fabrizio made the announcement after two days of interviews with candidates. Lawrence said he found out about the decision Tuesday night and met briefly with players Wednesday afternoon.
"I'm extremely excited about this," Lawrence said. "It's a dream come true to be the boys basketball coach at this school. I've coached for awhile, but I never thought I'd have the opportunity to coach at Lakewood and follow a legend."
Wright, who started coaching in 1976, retired in March after 35 seasons and won more games (674) than any other Pinellas County basketball coach. Wright was on the committee to select the new coach and gave administrators his recommendations for successor, which included Lawrence, who was an assistant with the Spartans the past two seasons, and another longtime assistant, Dwight Lattimore. St. Petersburg coach Chris Blackwell, a former player and assistant at Lakewood, said he did not apply.
"I think this is a great day for Lakewood," Wright said. "The big thing we were striving for was continuity with the program, and I think Anthony will do a great job."
Lawrence, 42, starred at Lakewood from 1985-88 before going to play at Alabama and Miami. He was the girls basketball coach at Shorecrest from 1995-2004 and was an assistant boys basketball coach at Admiral Farragut from 2005-07 before taking over as boys basketball coach at the school in 2007. Lawrence left the Blue Jackets in 2009 to became an assistant with the Spartans. He also is a teacher at Lakewood.
"I was in the business world for awhile after I graduated from college," Lawrence said. "But I really wanted to be in the school system and coach basketball."
Lawrence said he will meet with Lattimore to see if he wants to stay on as an assistant. Later this week, Lawrence will meet the players' parents. Then he will start working on offseason conditioning in the gymnasium named after the coach he is replacing.
"I think the kids are excited because it was someone in-house, and I already have a relationship with them," Lawrence said. "There will be a lot of pressure. But I'm going to put a lot of pressure on myself to make the right decisions on the court and live up to the legacy Coach Wright has established here."