Tommy Yancey learned a lot about coaching from the legendary Ron Bradley during their 40-minute daily commute to Piedmont Academy in the late 1990s.
As a player, the new East Hall High boys basketball coach was a sponge for every bit of advice and strategy offered up from the National Hall of Fame Coach. Yancey’s ride to school from his home near Walnut Grove to the private school in Monticello was Bradley.
In his first game, Yancey made his debut for the man who he followed from Loganville High, scoring a less-than-impressive 7 seven points and going 1 of 10 shooting from the field, he recalls.
Yancey was bracing for the car to stop the next day with Bradley in the driver’s seat for the ride south to school.
However, it wasn’t the tongue lashing the eventual All-State selection thought he might receive.
“Coach just said, ‘boy you sure shot the ball bad last night; let’s not do that again,” Yancey said, laughing about the exchange.
That firm but caring guidance helped steer Yancey to learn from one of the best to coach, a man who combined to win a state-record 1,372 games as a boys and girls basketball coach over 50 years.
Even before that, Yancey knew he wanted to be a coach as an adult. Playing for a legend was the icing on the cake.
Now, Yancey wants to bring some of that passion for the game to East Hall, where on April 9 he was named its new boys basketball coach.
The Vikings’ new coach couldn’t be more excited for the new position.
“East Hall has a basketball tradition unrivaled by anyone in the state,” said Yancey, who spent the past three years coaching at George Walton Academy in Monroe. “(East Hall) is the dream job.”
Yancey takes over for Seth Thompson, who served as interim coach after Seth Vining retired early last season. Thompson was also head coach at East Hall the season before Vining came out of retirement for a brief stint.
During these unprecedented times with sports at a complete halt due to the coronavirus, the new Vikings coach is eager to get a feel for his new program, using game tape from last season’s games as a guide.
Yancey also wants to build a relationship with Vining, a four-time state champion at East Hall, and Collins Hill’s Joe Dix, who guided the Vikings boys to a 2005 state title.
East Hall went 6-18 and 13-15, respectively, the past two seasons.
“I want to bring East Hall basketball back to where it was with the entire stands filled every night,” Yancey said.
East Hall’s new coach has already identified a few points of emphasis for his new school. He wants to cut down on the 19 turnovers a night and improve on the 37-percent shooting from the field in 2019-20.
He’s excited about the returning nucleus for the Vikings, which includes senior Imre Earls, juniors Clete Cooper and Christian Torres, and sophomore Levi Holtzclaw, among others.
Yancey thinks his high-energy approach will jell right away in Valhalla.
“I’m so excited to be coaching at East Hall,” said Yancey, who also coached in high school at Brookstone, Schley County and Grace Christian Academy. “We want to be an Elite 8 team every season at East Hall.”
Yancey’s also coached at the College of Coastal Georgia, in Brunswick, and St. John’s River State (Fla.).
Now at East Hall, Yancey believes he has a great cast of assistant coaches, which includes former East Hall standouts Trevor Bishop and Brody Langston.
Working with high school kids in the digital information age, the new man in charge for the Vikings wants to create an exciting culture for the program.
“You can’t come in boring,” Yancey said.
Yancey’s familiarity with the East Hall tradition runs deep. Playing for Loganville his first two years of high school in 1996 and 1997, he remembers some battles against Vikings teams with Chezley Watson and Antoine Whelchel.
As a sophomore, Yancey recalls being on the Loganville team that dropped the subregion championship at East Hall.
Yancey also had the experience of going head-to-head against Watson, who went on to play at Virginia.
“I could show you the exact spot in the (East Hall) gym where (Watson) threw me into the bleachers,” said Yancey, who laughingly described his experience trying to box out one of the best to ever play for East Hall.
Yancey said he’s always marveled at the atmosphere the East Hall community generates for basketball.
He wants it to be that way, once again.
“We want to bring the swagger back,” Yancey said.