Tony Mabrey hasn’t coached basketball in nine years but he’s thought about it, especially the last couple of years.
The tipping point came this past spring, when his wife, the former Roseanne Edmondson, asked him to substitute teach a couple of classes at Guntersville High School, where she is the principal.
“The moment I walked in the door,” Mabrey was saying Thursday evening, “I knew I was going to coach somewhere.”
That somewhere, it turns out, will be at Brindlee Mountain High School, where he will head up the girls basketball program. The announcement came at the Marshall County Board of Education meeting Thursday evening.
Appropriately, Mabrey’s wife was sitting next to him as he was introduced to board members and other county and school officials.
It was a popular choice as afterward, many in the room came over to welcome Mabrey back in the education — and coaching — fold.
“Remember, now, we’ve lost five starters,” Mabrey joked to Superintendent Cindy Wigley as she offered her best wishes.
Mabrey was an all-everything player at Albertville High School and was among the five top collegiate prospects in the state upon his graduation. Auburn, Alabama, UAB, Southern Mississippi and others wanted his services.
On March 20, 1979, Mabrey signed with coach Gene Bartow at UAB. Mabrey saw playing time as a freshman at UAB and was the only freshman on the team.
During his freshman year, the Blazers hosted DePaul University, the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. The game had the largest crowd to ever see a basketball game in the state of Alabama.
During that game, Mabrey led a comeback with two 25-foot jumpers over Mark Aguirre, the NCAA Player of the Year, but the Blazers fell short of the win by one point. Bartow would later say that was the game that put UAB basketball on the map.
Mabrey transferred to Jacksonville State but knee injuries derailed his playing career. So he turned to coaching.
In 1991, Mabrey was named the Lady Gamecocks head coach. The 1990-91 season would prove to be the winningest season in Lady Gamecock history as they compiled a record of 26-4.
Perhaps of more importance to fans of the Lady Lions is that the Lady Gamecocks led the nation in scoring at 91 points per game that season and would go on to win the Gulf South Conference championship and the NCAA South Region Championship.
Over the next three years, Mabrey would compile a record of 60-24 including a Gulf South Conference Tournament Championship over reigning national champion, Delta State, on its home floor for the first time in JSU history.
Mabrey eventually became the head basketball coach at Albertville and Appalachian and in 2002, he was asked to become the head men’s basketball coach and athletic director at Snead State Community College.
In 2014, he was inducted into the Marshall County Sports Hall of Fame.
Since he’s been out of coaching, Mabrey has been in private business. But he’s ready to dig back in to what he loves most.
“When I was [sub teaching], I got to interact with some of the students and get to know them and I just knew that was what I wanted to do,” Mabrey said.
And he’s not afraid of the major rebuilding job that’s ahead.
“I know they’ve lost five starters,” Mabrey said. “But I’ve known Suzan [Howard] a long time and I know they’ve got a good foundation there. I’ve seen them play.
“I know Kelly [Robinson] went in there and took them to the Final Four.
“There are good players in that program. It’s a good situation and a good school, and I’m looking forward to coaching there.”
Mike Tankersley is sports editor of The Arab Tribune.