By Lee Davis
Patrick Davis knows what it takes to win in big-time high school basketball.
He won 121 games in seven years as head coach of the Thompson Warriors, claiming three area titles in the process. For his efforts, Davis was named Coach of the Year in 2013 by the Birmingham Tip-off Club.
Last spring, Davis took on a new challenge when he accepted the head coaching job at Vestavia Hills, replacing George Hatchett, who won a pair of state championships in his three-decade tenure with the Rebels.
“We’re going to play a brand of basketball that’s fun and starts with the concept of being a great teammate,” Davis said. “We’re going to play with an up-tempo style and challenge our guys to get better every day.”
As November moves into December, Davis’ rebuilding plan seems to be right on schedule. Vestavia completed last week with a 5-5 record, and the coach sees ample reasons for optimism.
“Our kids have worked hard and that’s all anyone can ask of them,” he said. “I think we are significantly better now than when we started.”
A top priority for Davis has been installing the up-tempo style offense that was his trademark at Thompson.
“Everyone was excited about stepping up our pace,” he said. “But to put in that type of offense requires a lot of work. I’m pleased with the attitude and we’ve come a long way.”
Early standouts for Vestavia have included junior guard Luke Champion, who is home-schooled and eligible for varsity play under Alabama’s new Tim Tebow Law. The legislation allows home-schoolers to participate in Alabama High School Athletic Association-sanctioned sports.
“Luke had played on a club team and travel ball but had never before played in a high school basketball game,” Davis said. “He is going to be a major contributor for us.”
Senior Mac Smith was the Rebels’ leading scorer last season, averaging 11 points a game. He’s missed five games with a turf toe injury in 2016, but Davis expects him to be a major factor once he’s healthy again.
Another player to watch is junior point guard Scott Morrison.
“Other than Mac and Scott, we don’t have a lot of experience,” Davis said. “Mainly we’ve got a bunch of young guys vying for playing time.”
As is the case with many coaches, Davis believes in playing a rugged non-area schedule.
“We don’t play any games where we can get off the bus and claim a victory,” he said. “Sometimes a team actually gets better after a loss than a win, because it can show where the weaknesses are. We plan to play our best basketball in February, when it counts the most.”
Vestavia is aligned in Class 7A’s Area Five with Hoover, Thompson and Tuscaloosa County.
Davis said his first year at Vestavia is different from his inaugural campaign at Thompson years ago.
“At Thompson I was an assistant before I was named head coach,” he said. “So I already knew the players and the program. When I took the Vestavia job in April, I didn’t know a single person. We’re still trying to get to know each other.”
There are similarities between the two communities, he added.
“Both are great communities that produce hard-working, coachable kids, and that’s what I think high school basketball should be about: players from one community playing against players from another community,” he said. “You can’t necessarily control how good your talent is, but you can make the best of what you have.”
Davis is impressed with the spirit he sees daily at Vestavia, not only among the athletes and student body, but also among his fellow Rebel coaches.
“It’s a tremendous feeling to know that all the coaches of the other sports here want me to be successful,” he said. “Everyone works together to help each other. It’s great to look in the stands and see the other coaches supporting our program. That’s why coaches come to Vestavia and stay for a very long time.”
That camaraderie among coaches was reflected recently when the Vestavia competition gymnasium was officially named Braasch-Hatchett Court after long-time Rebel girls basketball coach Fran Braasch and Hatchett.
Davis said he had win-total in mind for his first Rebel team.
“This sounds like a cliche, but our goal is to be the best we can be every time we go on the floor,” he said.
If Davis can do that, he could well be one of those coaches that stays at Vestavia for a long time.