09/02/05 — Luke Vail named new basketball girls coach at CBA

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Luke Vail named new basketball girls coach at CBA

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 2, 2005 2:01 PM

PIKEVILLE -- The most-successful women's sports coach in Charles B. Aycock history is returning to the basketball court.

Luke Vail, who has produced 26 conference championship teams in women's tennis, begins his second stint as women's basketball coach this winter. Vail succeeds Gary Hales, who is now assistant principal at Goldsboro High.

Hales coached five seasons and guided C.B. Aycock to the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A eastern regionals in his first season. Overall, the Golden Falcons made four playoff appearances and finished among the top four teams each season in the Eastern Carolina Conference.

"As a former colleague of coach Vail, it was a very easy decision for me," said C.B. Aycock principal Randy Bledsoe. "Luke came to me and expressed an interest to help the girls basketball program. He has a proven track record and runs a great program.

"I know that our girls are going to be prepared to see anything this year."

Bledsoe added that Rick Smith will assist Vail. Barton graduate Carrie Reynell is the new junior varsity girls coach, replacing Christina Pijanowski, who has moved to the Triangle area.

Vail collected 192 victories in 11 seasons and took the 1998 squad to the NCHSAA 3-A eastern final. His 1993 team won the program's only regular-season conference title while competing in the East Central 2-A.

A graduate of East Carolina, Vail's last four teams posted a combined 88 victories, including a 19-9 mark in 1999 -- his final season as head coach.

"I'm excited to come back," said Vail. "Coach Hales did a really outstanding job over the past five years and the basketball program is definitely moving in the right direction. They've had some really good years.

"I don't know much about the personnel yet, but I'm looking forward to a new challenge since I've been out of it for awhile."

Vail inherits a team that returns seven players, including three starters, from a year ago. Aycock lost to Goldsboro in the ECC tournament final and stumbled against Bertie in the NCHSAA sectional semifinals.

Not surprisingly, Vail plans to use some tactics from tennis on the basketball court as well. He wants to put a good defensive team on the floor and develop depth, something which has helped his tennis program prosper for nearly three decades.

Vail is quick to point out that the starting five is not the only ingredient to a team's success. Role players share an integral part in the overall scheme and become invaluable, especially those who buy into the system. The reserves develop depth, which allows them to easily adapt in game situations.

"We won't change everything they were doing," Vail said. "We'll adapt our offense and defense to what best fits our players. At the same time, I don't want everyone to think it's going to be a wholesale change; learn a totally new system all in one season.

"We'll do some things I like to do on offense and defense that I feel comfortable with that I think will make our team successful. We'll also incorporate some of the same things that coach Hales has been doing."

Vail is certainly stepping into a good situation.

"I've seen them play and I know they've got some returning players ... key players who have the potential to develop into really good players," said Vail. "You never know how good the opposition is going to be, but we've got a really good non-conference schedule that should help us in conference play."

C.B. Aycock won't play an ECC game until mid-January since the league has been reduced to six teams. Vail will face former foes Wilson Hunt and Wilson Beddingfield, two teams he coached against in the old Big Eight 3-A Conference.

Vail just hopes his team survives the rigors -- and sometimes boredom -- that accompanies non-conference games. If the Golden Falcons escaped unscathed, then Vail could possibly navigate the program back to a level it hasn't experienced since the late 1990s.

"I want to build the program to a higher level of competition," said Vail, whose 1997 tennis team emerged the NCHSAA 2-A dual-team state champion. "I want to motivate the players to become part of another tradition."

Bledsoe couldn't have hired a better candidate.