Two successful coaches said their goodbyes to the Over the Mountain high school athletics scene last week.
Brian Moon, who took Spain Park to the Class 6A boys’ Final Four in 2007, announced that he is leaving to take the boys’ basketball coaching job at North Forsyth High School in Georgia.
Moon, the only boys’ basketball coach Spain Park has ever had, went 303-220 in a 17-year career that started at Hoover. He cited financial reasons for making the cross-state move.
“My whole career has been within a four-mile radius,” said Moon, 48, when contacted a few days after his announcement. “I started driving a school bus when I was 20 and have 28 years in the state system.
“I can draw a pension from the state and work in Georgia, so I can double dip. From the financial standpoint for my family, it made sense.”
The veteran coach said he would miss the Spain Park students, faculty and the overall community.
“It’s a great place to work, with kids that want to be successful and parents who do whatever they can to help,” said Moon. “I really think Spain Park is the best basketball coaching job in Alabama.”
As far as on-the-court highlights, a win over Homewood in Moon’s second season stands out.
“Going to the Final Four in 2007 was great,” he said. “There was one win that was even better than that.
“In our second year as a school, we had only freshmen, sophomores and juniors – no seniors. And we beat a very good Homewood team. I’ll always remember that one.”
Moon, for all his coaching talents, will have his work cut out for him in the Peach State. North Forsyth posted a 3-22 record in 2010-11.
Meanwhile, another near-legendary area coach was calling it quits. Tammy Richardson, who spent 26 years at Pelham before coming out of retirement to take over the volleyball program at Oak Mountain, announced she was retiring for good.
Richardson almost immediately turned the Lady Eagles into winners, taking them to a 57-19 record and a berth in the Class 6A finals in 2010. The previous season, she guided Oak Mountain to the Elite Eight.
“It’s been two of the best years of my coaching career,” said Richardson. “The school asked me to turn the program around, and we did that.”
Richardson coached Pelham to two state championships and two runner-up finishes in the 1980s and 1990s. She ends her career with a sterling 1,233-483 mark, ranking her as the third-winningest high school coach in Alabama history.
The coaches who follow Moon and Richardson will have large shoes to fill. They not only were outstanding in their coaching skills but were also great ambassadors for their schools – and sports – in the community.
Moon and Richardson join a line of other outstanding coaches and people – former Oak Mountain football coach Jerry Hood and former Homewood coach Dickey Wright – who have chosen to move on from this area.
As quality coaches have left, there is one who has returned to the Birmingham area, but not for the reason he might have intended. It was learned a couple of weeks ago that former Hoover football coach Rush Propst is battling cancer.
Propst, who has spent the last three years coaching at Colquitt County High School in Georgia, is being treated at UAB’s Cancer Center.
His ordeal began with an operation to remove a growth on his neck in early January. Later that month, the growth was judged to be malignant.
Propst also had surgeries to remove a cancerous tonsil and a cancerous lymph node in February. He is now in Birmingham for a series of radiation treatments.
Propst produced incredible success at Hoover – a 110-13 record and five Class 6A state championships – but was in the center of endless controversies before being forced out late in 2007.
At Colquitt County, Propst took a weak program and brought on-the-field success – without the controversy. He took Colquitt County to the state championship game in his third season. Propst hopes to be back at Colquitt County by mid-May, just as football spring practice is underway.
But Propst also insists he is a changed man, and he says the change took place before the cancer diagnosis. The hard-driving coach said he recommitted his life to Jesus Christ in the summer of 2009.
“I was out of control,” said Propst, talking about his final years at Hoover. “I may have been on top of the world professionally, but I wasn’t on top of it personally or spiritually.
“I’ve gotten forgiveness from God, and now I want to seek forgiveness from anybody I’ve ever wronged or caused to think of me in a negative light. I hope they can forgive me.”
There is no reason to doubt Propst’s sincerity. One thing that his staunchest supporters and severest critics agreed on was that the man did everything he attempted at 100 percent velocity.
If Propst says he is a changed man, I have no reason to doubt him. Although he was often his own worst enemy at Hoover, I always thought that many of the slings and arrows tossed at him were unfair or tinged by jealousy or hypocrisy.
A few years ago, at the peak of Propst’s off-the-field problems, a popular coach in Metro Birmingham who knows him well told me: “Rush isn’t as bad a guy as some people think, and I’m not as good a guy as some people think.”
Propst certainly made his share of mistakes at Hoover, but it’s past time to forgive him and move on.
And I wonder, would a high school in this area ever ask Propst to return to his home state and build its football program? I don’t know. I’m not even sure if Propst would be interested in returning to the community where he left such a monumental impact.
But if a school is looking for a proven winner with a compelling life story that young men could learn from, it could do a lot worse than hiring Rush Propst.