A Tribute: Building a basketball factory


Vernon Eppinette

Published: Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 09:49 AM.

(Editor’s note: In the fall of 1999 I was curious. Having covered the Port St. Joe High School basketball team as the Tiger Sharks won three state titles, and fell one possession short of another, I wanted to find out how this was accomplished. Coach Vern Eppinette, who I first met at a coaching clinic during which I was captivated, allowed me, after some coaxing, to visit during one week before the season began. Following is the story that emerged.)

PORT ST. JOE -- In the long shadow of a now silent mill a basketball foundry will soon begin to stir.

Stoked by a work ethic that defines this blue-collar community, it has stamped out championships just as a mill once turned out liner board – and forged an identity as recognizable as the stygian cloud that blankets titletown.

That synthesis is outlined by the sometimes garish yellow-and-purple uniforms as well as the always meticulously tailored suits the coach dons on game nights.

It is punctuated by the rawhide loyalty of fans, a string of sportsmanship awards and the line of five gleaming state basketball championship trophies won in the past six years, including four in a row.

It would have been hard to predict it would turn out this way in 1990 when Vernon Eppinette arrived to lead the Port St. Joe High School boys’ basketball program to undreamed of heights.

He is a Mozart man in a George Jones town; a Yankee come to work and live in a Southern-fried hamlet.

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