Centennial Academy Charter School Head Coach Led Boys’ Basketball Team to First Championship
ATLANTA – On Friday evening, the Atlanta Hawks recognized their nominee for Jr. NBA Coach of the Year Michael Willis for his impact on youth athletes in Atlanta. Willis is currently the head coach and athletic director at Centennial Academy Charter School, a conversion charter school that educates scholars from kindergarten through eighth grade and has the highest homeless population in Atlanta.
In February 2022, Willis led the boys’ basketball team at Centennial Academy to their first championship in their first season in the Atlanta Public Schools Middle School Basketball League. Willis and his team overcame numerous barriers to win the championship, such as not having a standard gym on campus to practice and play games at.
“I am truly humbled to be recognized as the 2022 Atlanta Hawks Junior Basketball Coach of the Year. It feels great to be acknowledged for doing the work that I am passionate about,” said Coach Willis. “For me, coaching is about more than teaching young men the art and science of the game of basketball. It is equally important for me to teach student-athletes about all things that make young men good people. Instilling teamwork, and good character is key, and as a fan and season ticket holder of the Atlanta Hawks, I am forever grateful for them recognizing me with this honor.”
Willis has more than 35 years of experience in coaching at various levels. He began his career at his alma mater Virginia State University as an assistant coach and went on to coach at various other schools. The Virginia native lived in Atlanta from 1996 to 2005, and he eventually moved back in 2017 and began coaching at Centennial Academy in 2019. Willis was named the All-Star Coach of the West by Next Generation Sports and Atlanta Public Schools Boys’ Middle School Coach of the Year in 2022.
In May 2022, it was announced that Willis was selected as the Hawks’ nominee for Jr. NBA Coach of the Year, in which more than 60 coaches submitted to be selected as the Hawks’ nominee.
Each year, teams from the NBA, WNBA and G League submit nominees for the Jr. NBA Coach of the Year. The criterion of the award is a coach who takes a holistic approach to the game, serves as a mentor by demonstrating outstanding character, creates a culture the encourages character development amongst players, goes above and beyond call of action to help their youth organization, and sees sports as a tool to address and educate players on mental health and social justice issues.