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Prep basketball: Lions on a roll thanks to coach's superstitious ways

POSTED: February 12, 2008 5:03 a.m.
ROBIN MICHENER NATHAN | The Times/

Lakeview Academy basketball coach Seth Vining, wearing his now-trademark orange pants, is surrounded by his senior players. Since the Lions coach first donned the pants, his team has won eight consecutive games, including seven by 25 points or more. Lakeview plays host to Tallulah Falls at 7:30 tonight.

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GAINESVILLE — Seth Vining isn’t at all bashful about wearing his orange pants.

Lakeview Academy’s boys coach realizes that the colorful pants accentuated with a matching orange tie he wears every game are going to draw attention on the sidelines. It’s a far cry from his standard khakis, navy tie and blazer that the buttoned-down basketball coach previously made a habit of wearing.

One of Hall County’s all-time winningest coaches decided to start wearing the pants this season on homecoming against Towns County on Jan. 11 after assistant coach Jake Beggs said he thought it was time to break out the orange. But Beggs couldn’t have imagined at the time the superstitious tick in Vining he would set off.

Since the Lions coach caught hold of the citrusy-slacks craze, Lakeview (14-7, 6-0 Region 8N-A) has reeled off eight consecutive wins and clinched its first subregion title in his time at the Gainesville private school. Seven of those wins have been by at least 25 points, and the last three have been by a combined margin of 132 points.

And since superstition is in vogue at Lakeview these days, Vining’s daughter, who acts as the team’s water girl, has her own superstition of washing the water bottles every night.

"My team knows that I’ll do anything I can to give them an edge," coach Vining said. "And if it takes wearing an orange pair of pants, I’ll do it."

Lakeview’s coach didn’t purchase this attire just for this season’s run at the region title. He first started wearing the orange during the 2005-2006 season as the school’s spirit club tried to bring its old school color back into the mainstream. Vining says he wore the pants a couple of times that season.

Even today, students can be seen wearing the orange pants in the bleachers, a bow tie and maybe a pair of suspenders.

But players quickly took notice when Vining took to wearing orange this season.

"They’re retro," junior Nick Saye said. "I like the orange pants."

Since Lakeview Academy is playing so well, with a legitimate chance of winning the region championship, its coach is happy to keep wearing the pants as long as the team keeps playing well.

"I guess coach likes his orange pants," senior David Pruett said.

Players say this isn’t the first superstitious habit that Vining has tried this season. When Lakeview Academy faced North Hall in this year’s Lanierland Tournament, he broke out the lucky tie he wore in four state title games with East Hall (2000, 2001, 2003, 2004).

So what happened when he wore that lucky tie this season? The Lions beat the Trojans 73-65.

But the Lions’ season hasn’t completely gone off without a hitch.

Before the current winning streak began, things weren’t quite as peachy. Lakeview Academy lost five-of-seven after the win against North Hall. Two of those losses came in Region 8-A play against Athens Academy and Social Circle.

The Lions held a five-point lead against Social Circle with only 30 seconds left to play and still lost 55-53.

That’s when things took a sharp turn for the better. The Lions kicked off their winning streak with a win against Commerce on Jan. 8.

But Vining doesn’t want people to have the impression that his pants are the secret to Lakeview’s success on the court. According to the Lions coach, the real keys are a balanced offense, solid defense and a team that really believes it is going to win.

Take Tuesday night’s 81-50 win over Jefferson as a case in point. The Lions shot 30-of-64 from the field, seven players scored in the first quarter and five different players scored at least five points to help knock off the perennial Region 8-A power.

During the streak the Lions have a pair of wins against the Dragons, and as a result own any necessary tie-breaker advantage at season’s end. Lakeview Academy also has a pair of subregion wins over Towns County during its hot streak.

"We’re having fun as a team and really believe in each other," Pruett added.

The Lions’ final two subregion games are against Tallulah Falls at 7:30 tonight and at Commerce on Feb. 8.

But Vining wants the regular season to be just the start of a special postseason run for Lakeview Academy.

"Hopefully we have 10 or 15 more games left to play," Vining said.



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