Celebrity Coaches Highlight Hoops For Hope


ABBEVILLE -- Former Alabama football coach Gene Stallings and former Auburn football coach Pat Dye were on opposite sides again last Thursday night. Instead of pacing the sidelines of the gridiron, this time they paced the hardwood at Abbeville Christian Academy's gymnasium.

Raising money for a worthy cause and having a good time was the order of the night...and what a success it was.

Stallings and Dye were in Abbeville as celebrity coaches when a team of Great Southern Wood employees played the Abbeville Christian Academy varsity boys at the ACA gymnasium in the Hoops for Hope Basketball Challenge.

The event raised over $3,500 for the Henry County Relay for Life which benefits cancer research through the American Cancer Society.

After the game, Stallings joked that he knew he would out-coach Dye.

"I was a high school basketball player," Stallings said. "I know more about basketball than Pat Dye. I knew my team would be better-coached than his team, but I was worried about the officials. I've seen some bad ones in my time, but I think this is about the worst group of officials I've ever seen."

So who were these men in striped shirts? None other than former Auburn basketball coach Cliff Ellis and former Alabama basketball coach Wimp Sanderson.

"They didn't look like much to me, either," Dye said. "That's all right. This was one time we didn't have a gameplan except to have a good time and raise some money for a good cause."

Nearly 400 fans packed the gym for the game. Prior to the game the fans were treated to an autograph and photograph session with the coaches, and they enjoyed pizza from Stormie's and other donated items at the concession stand.

A basketball autographed by all the coaches and a cake were raffled, and ACA senior Wes Ezzell won 4 tickets to this year's Iron Bowl by hitting a lay-up, free throw, three pointer and a half court shot in 45 seconds. Ezzell completed the feat by hitting four consecutive shots in 15 seconds.

The ACA varsity cheerleaders and junior varsity cheerleaders performed as did a group of Great Southern cheerleaders. Each cheerleader and player on the Great Southern Wood team played in honor of a cancer survivor or in memory of a cancer victim.

Jimmy Rane, Great Southern Wood's founder and chief executive officer, says he immediately threw his support behind the idea when a basketball game was suggested.

"I think cancer is something everybody is concerned about," Rane said. "It touches every life on the planet."

Rane's mother, Libba, is a breast cancer survivor.

Stallings felt the opportunity to help raise money for a worthy cause made the invitation impossible to pass up.

"No question about it," Stallings said, "I was just tickled to be a part of it. I hope everyone involved had as good a time as we did."

"With Coach Stallings and me coaching basketball," Dye said, "you knew it was going to be funny."

Rane welcomed the crowd to the event, and Wimp Sanderson threw the ball for the opening tip-off. The Great Southern Yella Fellas took control of the ball, and, with a Cory Bradford three-pointer, took control of the game and never relinquished the lead. The Yella Fellas were led in scoring by Ryan Blalock who posted the game's only double-double. Chris Godwin and James Rane both contributed ten points.

By the end of the game, both Pat Dye and Gene Stallings had received technical fouls from referee Cliff Ellis, and Wimp Sanderson kept the crowd entertained by shooting free throws during time outs.

ACA put up a hard fight, but even with nine players on the court for most of the fourth quarter, they couldn't mount an attack to overcome the Yella Fellas who won the game by nine points.

"You couldn't have asked for a more fun event," said Jimmy Rane after the game. "Everyone had a great time. Watching Wes make those shots at halftime to win the tickets and watching the coaches interact and really get into the game made it even more exciting. It was quite an event. The Yella Fellas won the game, but the real winner was the Cancer Society."