A high school coach less than three months, Tracy Vest picked up one of his greatest wins the night his North Sand Mountain Lady Bison shocked defending state champion and powerhouse Fyffe in the finals of the Sand Mountain Tournament. A year later in the same tournament, the defeated No. 1 Section.
So in his first two seasons, Vest had wins over two of the best girls’ basketball teams that ever come off Sand Mountain.
Vest wound up in Higdon because he married a North Sand Mountain girl. He never expected to stay very long. He planned to build himself up and move on to a bigger school. But that girl and a talented program kept him. The NSM girls won before Vest arrived in 1994, but he helped elevate the program to a different level. Two of his teams made it to the Final Four, in back-to-back seasons, in 1998-1999.
That ’99 team ranks on that list of best teams on Sand Mountain, championship or not. That one still haunts him. The team rolled in Birmingham expecting nothing less than a state championship. That was the same team that dismantled powerhouse Fyffe in the Sand Mountain Tournament.
The only blip was a bit of revenge for Section coach Kevan Townson and his team, as they upset the Lady Bison in the Jackson County Tournament. But as the team arrived in Birmingham, a virus followed, leaving most of them sick. Recently, Vest was cleaning out a closet when he found the score sheet from that three-point loss to eventual champion Montgomery Academy. Twenty years later, he wanted to throw up again.
Vest coached the NSM boys for a few years. He even coached the football team, which he said was his worst mistake. He battled back, though, because he’s a winner. Vest got his old job back, as the girls’ coach. Coaching his daughter, Hannah, for two years, the team finished 54-6. In the end, he got his state championship. Even better, he got it with his son, Hunter, winning a golf state title last month, the first team state championship in school history.
Life changes, and time flies right by. The kid who showed up in Higdon, bright-eyed and ready to face the world is now retired in Alabama. Where does that time go?
He’s going to coach in Tennessee. Good for him. Next week, Hannah gets married. Hunter is at Northeast Alabama Community College on a golf scholarship.
We’re getting old, Coach.