Long, who has coached the Panthers to more than 300 wins and three appearances in state championship games, reflected Wednesday on his decision to step down, his final season at Dr. Phillips and more.
It is the end of an era at Dr. Phillips High.
After 15 seasons leading the Panthers boys basketball program, veteran coach Anthony Long announced Wednesday that he has stepped down.
The move is something the veteran coach says he has been contemplating for a few years now, and he says it will enable him to — among other things — spend more time with his 8-year-old son, who has autism.
"It’s a good thing — I'm not over here sad or depressed. I’m over here kind of excited," Long said. "I put in a good run and I’m excited to spend more time with my son and more time with my family; (to) explore some other interests."
Long's run at Dr. Phillips saw him amass a 332-106 record leading the Panthers (a .757 winning percentage).
Dr. Phillips made 11 playoff appearances during Long's 15-year tenure, with three regional championships and three appearances in the state championship game to the program's credit during that span. Before coaching at Dr. Phillips, Long won two state titles at Gainesville High.
At the beginning of this season, Observer Preps profiled Long and his time at Dr. Phillips as he entered his 15th season at the helm, linked HERE.
When reflecting on his decision to step down, Long focused on the toll that the grind of being a coach at a competitive program like Dr. Phillips can take, noting that he did not enjoy it the way he once had.
In some ways, the effect of the sea change in the Central Florida hoops scene also played a role. Over the past decade or so, there has been a migration of the Orlando area's best players from public schools like Dr. Phillips, Edgewater, Evans, Winter Park and Olympia toward private schools.
In the summer of 2015, three elite players that originally played for Dr. Phillips — Chaundee Brown, Malik William and Elijah Jordan — left the program to finish their varsity careers at The First Academy. The result was that, overnight, the Panthers were no longer a legitimate state title contender.
But that didn't mean Long ceased to put pressure on himself to maintain his high standards for the program that date back to its heydey.
"The work to maintain our level of excellence, it’s had an effect on me," Long admitted. "It’s drained me."
Long said he will continue to teach at Dr. Phillips and that he will definitely not coach somewhere else next season, saying he views this step as a retirement and that it is not out of dissatisfaction with the program, the school or the administration.
He did not rule out the possibility of coaching again someday down the road if he can't shake the itch, though.
Long said this season fit well as a final go-round with the team for a variety of reasons. The Panthers won 19 games despite not having several players on the school's football team available to them until mid-December, and the team took a trip to Hawaii to play in the Iolani Classic over the winter holiday break.
"I wanted to give the kids that experience, and to give myself and my family – and the assistant coaches — that experience," Long said.
"It’s a good thing — I'm not over here sad or depressed. I’m over here kind of excited. I put in a good run."
— Anthony Long
Though the Panthers' season ended with a loss to Oak Ridge in the Class 9A Regional Semifinals Feb. 21, he still feels satisfied that his second-to-last game coaching at Dr. Phillips was an upset-victory on the road at heavily-favored Sarasota Riverview.
"That was pretty cool to me," Long said. "I believe in the 'basketball gods' — a lot of coaches do — and I just think that, that game, the basketball gods said ‘Anthony, you’ve been doing this a long time and we’re going to give you one last gift to go out on.’ ...
"For us to go in their gym and beat them, it was a huge win. It was a satisfying way to go out."
The job opening Long's departure creates is likely to generate significant interest. Dr. Phillips returns four of five starters, including junior standout Daniel Love, who is one of the more talented scorers in the Metro Conference.
"I think the program is in good shape," Long said. "Whoever gets the job next year is definitely going to be stepping into a good situation."
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].