Pickle engineered turnaround at St. Al

Published 7:55 am Sunday, March 24, 2019

At the end of the 2017-18 season, when his St. Aloysius team had been eliminated from the District 3-AAA tournament, coach Eddie Pickle made a bold prediction.

“If we don’t win this thing next year, they need to fire me,” Pickle said at the time.

A year later, he admits that might have been too big a goal considering Class AAA runner-up Hillcrest Christian was also in the district.

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“I’m coming off of that,” Pickle smiled. “Hillcrest is a little better than I gave them credit for.”

Although it didn’t win the district title, St. Al did turned out to be a lot better than people thought they might be. The Flashes finished with a 17-11 record — a seven-game improvement over last season — and played in the state tournament for the first time since 1970.

Pickle, who also coaches St. Al’s girls’ team, engineered a winning season at a school with little to no tradition of success in basketball and is the 2019 Vicksburg Post Coach of the Year.

“My kids earned it,” Pickle said. “I didn’t do anything. I’m just proud to be associated with a group of kids that work as hard as they do. We had them for an hour and a half of practice and they always wanted to go longer. That kind of stuff will make anybody a good coach.”

Part of St. Al’s success stemmed from the addition of several transfer students. Junior guard Alvin Brown came in from Raymond and averaged 13 points and eight rebounds per game. Brown wasn’t a one-man team, though.

The Flashes got contributions from nearly a dozen players over the course of the season. They had a deep bench that routinely allowed Pickle to shuffle lineups and matchups while subbing in a second wave of players. Brown, despite being the team’s leading scorer, came off the bench as a sixth man in a number of games.

“My starting lineup changed game to game. Most times, the kids didn’t even know until I told them because I wanted to keep them working hard in practice to earn those spots. It didn’t matter which five I had on the floor. We could go five or six deep off the bench and not lose anything,” Pickle said. “There were games where we just wore people out.”

St. Al got off to a good start — it won seven of its first eight games, including one over Class AAAA, Division I runner-up Copiah Academy — before leveling offa bit. It advanced to the state tournament for the first time in 49 years.

“I didn’t realize that until somebody brought it to my attention. That felt good,” Pickle said.

Now Pickle will try to turn one good season into a strong foundation for the future. He plans to coach one more season at St. Al before retiring — his son will graduate from the school in May 2020 — and would like to leave the program in good hands as he heads out the door.

“I didn’t know what the culture was when I got here. I wanted to instill in the kids what hard work was and to be a good defensive ballclub,” Pickle said. “We’re not there yet. But we’re getting there.”

Vicksburg Post Coaches of the Year
2019 – Eddie Pickle, St. Aloysius
2018 – Bruce Robinson, Warren Central
2017 – Jackie Glass, Warren Central
2016 – Jackie Glass, Warren Central
2015 – Jackie Glass, Warren Central
2014 – Dellie C. Robinson, Vicksburg
2013 – E.J. Creel, Porters Chapel
2012 – E.J. Creel, Porters Chapel
2011 – Dellie C. Robinson, Vicksburg
2010 – Jackie Martin-Glass, Warren Central
2009 – Dellie C. Robinson, Vicksburg
2008 – Dellie. C. Robinson, Vicksburg
2007 – Kyt Bonner, St. Aloysius and Penn Majors, St. Aloysius
2006 – Donny Fuller, Warren Central and Drew McBrayer, St. Aloysius
2005 – Donny Fuller, Warren Central and Mike Grzanich, Porters Chapel
2004 – Donny Fuller, Warren Central and Jesse Johnson, Warren Central
2003 – Donny Fuller, Warren Central and Dellie C. Robinson, Vicksburg
2002 – Donny Fuller, Warren Central and Dellie C. Robinson, Vicksburg
2001 – Mitchell Willis, Porters Chapel and Dellie C. Robinson, Vicksburg
2000 – Mike Coleman, Vicksburg and Dellie C. Robinson, Vicksburg
1999 – Debbie Carr, Porters Chapel and Noah Hamilton, St. Aloysius
1998 – Debbie Carr, Porters Chapel and John Duett, Warren Central
1997 – Doc Stephens, Vicksburg and Kenny Bizot, Porters Chapel
1996 – Donny Fuller, Warren Central and Dellie C. Robinson, Vicksburg
1995 – Donny Fuller, Warren Central and Dellie C. Robinson, Vicksburg
1994 – Donny Fuller, Warren Central and John Duett, Warren Central
Note: From 1994-2007 the Post selected a girls and boys Coach of the Year

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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