Marshall County has 3 coaches with ties to Jacksonville State University and – get this – their time at Jacksonville all overlapped.
The three are Brindlee girls coach Tony Mabrey, Asbury boys coach Johnny Pelham and DAR girls coach Suzan Shirley Howard. All three played at JSU and Mabrey and Pelham also coached there.
The men were assistant coaches under Hall of Fame coach Bill Jones, a Guntersville native.
Mabrey, who played at Albertville, was there in the early 1980s and like a lot of folks who love Jacksonville, who almost never left.
“I was there from 1981 until 1997,” he said. He was a graduate assistant and then an assistant coach under Coach Jones once his playing days were up.
Pelham, a Georgian, played there in the late 1980s.
Shirley, who played high school ball at Guntersville, was a Gamecock 1997-98.
“Coach Mabrey was an assistant on the men’s team the first year I was there and Coach Pelham was an assistant on the men’s team my second year,” Coach Howard said. They would see each other around the gym as you might expect and Coach Howard remembers Coach Pelham vividly.
“You and Coach Jones chewed my butt out one day,” she said. “I was shooting from half court and I almost hit the shot clock.”
Coach Pelham either doesn’t remember it or denies it.
“Why I never said a word to you,” he replied when Coach Howard brought it up.
They all enjoyed pretty good runs at JSU.
Coach Mabrey was JSU's head women’s coach in 1990-91, compiling the winningest season in JSU women’s history with a 26-4 record. The team averaged 91 points per game and made it to the Elite 8. Coach Mabrey went 62-24 from 1990-93 as the JSU women’s coach.
Coach Howard wrote her name in the JSU record book with the most 3-point attempts (210) in all of Division I in the 1996-97 season. She took 408 three-point shots in her career, which was just 2 seasons.
Pelham’s name is likewise in the JSU record book. He led the team in free throw percentage 1987-88, converting 71 of 87. He improved upon that the next year going 73 of 87. He was part of a Final 4 team his senior season.
Both Coach Pelham and Coach Mabrey remain close to JSU’s Coach Bill Jones to this day.
“Bill Jones is the reason I can do what I do,” Coach Mabrey said. “I messed up my knee. I wouldn’t have gotten my degree, but Coach Jones said, ‘We’re going to take care of you,” and he got me into coaching.”