By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
West back on the sideline at UAB
Former Gainesville High football star Tommy West is now the defensive coordinator at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. - photo by For The Times

Tommy West couldn't imagine a better position for himself than his current job as the defensive coordinator at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. There, he is a three-hour drive from his parents, Jim and Carol, and also a brother, Tim, in his hometown of Gainesville.

Coaching with the Blazers, he is also about three hours from his son Turner, who is finishing up his college education at the University of Memphis, which is also where West served as head coach for the Tigers from 2001-2009.

West, a Gainesville High graduate, was brought on board at UAB by head coach Neil Callaway in January after spending a year out of coaching and living in Gainesville and working on a sports radio show in Memphis, Tenn.

But when the call came to get back into coaching, it was a no-brainer.

"When coach Callaway called, I knew it was the perfect situation," said West, a 32-year college coaching veteran. "When I was in Gainesville last year, I knew that I still wanted to coach.

"Having coached at Memphis, I'm very familiar with the conference (Conference USA) and I know that it is a conference built on speed."

Even when West was working in the sports media business last year and breaking down games for fans in his former stomping grounds, the fire for coaching that started as a kid in Gainesville never went away. West says he was blessed to grow up and get to play under coaches that included, but were not limited to, Ted Ivey (his little league baseball coach), Bobo Smith, Marvin Peek and the legendary former coach of the Red Elephants Bobby Gruhn.

"I say it with all sincerity, I was just really, really fortunate to get to play for coaches like that," West said. "Most people don't get to play for coaches like that."

Even at 56 years old, the seemingly endless 16-18 hour days don't get too much to handle. In fact, West jokes that since he's doing what he loves, he's never had to work a day in his life.

And West hasn't put a time frame on how long he wants to remain in coaching. He knows that it'll be obvious to him when it's time to step away.

"I gotta tell you, I'm running high with excitement right now coaching," West said. "I'm just having a great time.

"I'm going to continue to coach until I lose the passion for the game."

With the influence of past coaches and love for football, West knew at a young age he wanted to join the profession. After playing at the University of Tennessee and being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of college, he went into coaching. During his career, he's also held head coaching jobs at Tennessee-Chattanooga and Clemson.

However, working on the ground with players from day-to-day at Alabama-Birmingham is what leaves West most excited about his current position. As a head coach, West says the bulk of time is spent managing others.

"I know I'm closer now to the tail end of my career, rather than the front end, but I'm really excited about where I am now at UAB," West said.


Regional events