It’s hard to keep a good coach down, even if he does have a bum leg.
Lakeview Academy boys basketball coach Seth Vining ruptured his patella tendon just as the current season was getting ready to begin, but Vining, who has 691 career wins, has proved it’ll take a lot more than a blown out right knee to keep him away from his passion of coaching.
“We were worried about it when we heard about the injury,” senior Jake Kendrick said. “But we knew he’d be right back to coaching.
“It would take a lot more than that to keep him away from coaching.”
Vining, whose team is off to a 1-1 start, doesn’t have the luxury of his normal mobility these days as he surveys practice at the school’s gymnasium. Instead, he sits at a distance to provide for a wide shot to survey practice from the comfort of his wheelchair.
Making his job easier are his trusty whistle, a commanding voice that grabs the team’s attention and a group of assistant coaches that can run the court with the players.
“It really hasn’t been that difficult,” said Vining about his limited mobility. “The worst thing is that I can’t drive myself, but my wife has been an excellent chauffeur.
“With the team, I have an excellent support staff.”
Vining sustained his knee injury during a trip to Georgia College & State University on Oct. 22 with the school’s juniors and seniors to visit the campus. The visit was planned in conjunction with the Lions’ football game in Milledgeville that same evening against Georgia Military.
After leaving the campus cafeteria, Vining missed a step walking down a short set of stairs and landed at the bottom.
Vining, a coach for 36 years now in Hall County, knew the injury was severe right away with the way his knee was awkwardly adjusted.
“I knew right away that I’d messed it up pretty good,” Vining said. “The way I landed, it just buckled.”
After the unfortunate fall, he made an immediate trip to the hospital and had surgery to repair the injury the following Wednesday in Gainesville. Now five weeks removed from his unfortunate slip and fall, Vining is still found wheeling around the school’s campus in his wheelchair.
Slowly but surely, he’s increasing his mobility to where he’s going to hopefully start using a cane to aid in supporting the leg, which still has no flexibility, during the remainder of his rehabilitation.
“I’m not confined to the wheelchair, but I do use it for practice,” Vining said.
Other than not being as mobile, it’s still the same Vining who players have grown to expect. He demands the best out of their effort. Vining also has an eye for detail as the team looks to get the next nine victories to put the Lions’ coach in the prestigious 700 club, which he insists will be no more or less important than any other victory.
“Everything is pretty much the same and everyone is trying to work just as hard as we can,” junior Matt Askounis said.
“We felt really bad when coach Vining got hurt.
“Now, we want to all go out and have a good season.”
With Vining trying to pick a neutral viewing point to see the entire court, he lets his assistant coaches Philip Chittaro, Danny Neal and Brad Cochran serve as the eyes and ears on the court.
“The only thing is that coach Vining isn’t able to be as interactive as he normally would,” Kendrick said.
Vining, a 2006 Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame inductee, has also adjusted to how he handles being on the sideline during the game, as he doesn’t want to be injured further with a player running down a loose ball. Lakeview Academy’s coach already almost had one of his own players run into him along the side of the court.
During a scrimmage outing against King’s Ridge, Vining utilized the nearby stage to see the action and be able to provide feedback. Askounis added that the Lions usually make sure a player serves as a sort of spotter on the bench to be keen to any hazards for the currently wheelchair-bound Vining.
Even though the players know Vining is going to remain modest about his looming milestone victory, they’ve had it in their heads the entire season that they would be gunning for No. 700.
“We’re just all focused on winning right now,” Askounis said. “I’m honored to be able to play for him.”