When Lakeview boys basketball coach Seth Vining first came to Hall County from Western Carolina University with his wife Cathy, he coached football and baseball, not basketball, during his first year.
Skip ahead a few decades and he’s one of the most successful basketball coaches in the state, with 713 career wins and four state championship teams — all in Hall County.
Vining will coach his 1,000th career varsity basketball game at 7:30 p.m. Friday when the Lions host Region 8-A opponent Tallulah Falls. The team is already being regarded as one of the most talented teams the school has had after winning two games at the Lanierland tournament for the first time in school history.
“We have the potential to be the best Lakeview team that I’ve coached,” Vining said.
And even though Vining has been coaching basketball since the 1970s, it doesn’t appear that this will be the last team he coaches.
“I’m taking it year by year,” Vining said. “I have a great coach’s wife; as long as she is willing to support me and I’m still having fun, I could see doing this for a few more years.”
His wife was his first assistant coach, back in 1976 at East Hall, where Vining coached the Lady Vikings. Since those days, which included a pair of state titles with the East Hall girls in 1979 and 1980 (a team led by current Gainesville girls coach Brenda Hill-Gilmore), through his run of success with the East Hall boys (including state titles in 2001 and 2003), to his time at Lakeview Academy, Vining has always stayed in the Gainesville area.
“The biggest thing is that Hall County is a great place to live,” Vining said. “My wife and I have both enjoyed coaching and teaching here.”
He’s seen changes in the game throughout the years, including the speed and the improved quality of coaching since the 1970s.
And even though it took Vining a year to start coaching basketball in the county, he was, and still is, at home on the court.
“I think its always been my favorite sport,” Vining said. “I still enjoy the challenge. It’s a lot of fun to see kids improve, and teams do well.
“I still enjoy it.”
Even after 999 varsity games and counting.
AREA PLAYERS REACH MILESTONE: Friday at Chestatee High, North Hall’s Mary Kate Rushton will need to score just one point to reach 1,000 for her career as a Lady Trojan. She will be able to join her sister with the distinction after McKenna surpassed 1,000 points on Dec. 30 in a win over West Hall.
With the senior sisters leading the way, the Lady Trojans are 9-4 this season, on the verge of beginning subregion 8-AAA North play.
The Union County girls (11-2) don’t begin subregion play until Tuesday against Fannin County in Blairsville, and the Lady Panthers already have an established scoring threat in Rebecka Merritt to lead them.
Last Monday the senior scored her 1,000th career point as part of a 16-point outburst in the first half to defeat Andrews High (N.C.) 72-28.
TWO REGION 8-AA TEAMS STILL UNDEFEATED: There are only two undefeated girls teams remaining in Region 8-AA. That number will be down to one after Jan. 20.
The East Hall girls (10-0) are led by senior Morgan Jackson, who already has a pair of tournament MVP honors this season.
Rabun County (13-0) has been dominant in and out of the state, defeating a Class A top-10 team Towns County (9-4) twice, as well as picking up seven wins over North and South Carolina schools.
The two Region 8-AA North teams begin subregion play in the next few days, and will meet Jan. 20 at East Hall and again at Tiger on Feb. 7.
PREPARATIONS UNDER WAY FOR GAINESVILLE’S NEW FIELDHOUSE: It won’t be long before City Park Stadium in Gainesville sees the emergence of a new fieldhouse.
Since the old fieldhouse at the stadium, which is now officially under control of Gainesville City Schools, was torn down in December, crews have been grading and preparing the land, said Gainesville High athletic director Wayne Vickery.
Vickery added that the school will receive bids for the construction of the new fieldhouse later this month, and then the building process can begin.