DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -- Legend is one word used to describe Wiregrass coach Johnny Oppert.
“When I was a teenager God called me into being I guess a Christian coach and I’ve always tried to be the right example,” coach, Johnny Oppert said.
A 1955 graduate of Dothan High, coaching 44 years between Wicksburg high, Girard junior high, Houston Academy and Wallace community college. Oppert wanted to stay local.
“Well I grew up here and I love the people here and when I got into it I couldn’t get out of it. I just loved it and I still do,” Oppert said.
An athlete himself, Oppert was inducted not only into the Wiregrass Hall of Fame, but the Samford Baseball Hall of Fame and the Alabama Community College Conference Hall of Fame.
“I didn’t work to get in there. I just had a good time coaching it’s all been fun fun to me. I wish I could still play,” Oppert said.
Oppert played every inning for four seasons. Finishing his senior season with a batting average of over .300 and only four errors.
“I played baseball and was pretty successful at it, but I was better at coaching basketball and I guess the reason is baseball came kind of natural to me and basketball was hard,” Oppert said.
And coaching, he did. Taking one team and turning their program completely around.
“When I coached at Wicksburg, my first coaching career started there and we went to the state tournament three out of four years and they had never been before," Oppert said.
Some of his favorite memories -
“For 25 years I’d get up at 6 o’clock in the morning and play full-court basketball with a bunch of young guys. Finally when I turned 75, I decided I better quit and somebody said why’d you quit and I said well when they were choosing teams I heard one of them say, I had him last time, so I decided it was time to get out of it,” Oppert said.
Another memory helping originate the downtown Dothan hoops classic 14 years ago.
"We had to beg teams to get in. Now they’re on a waiting list. All the schools wanting to get in because when you get so much money from playing and get the experience of a big court and everything,” Oppert said.
This year’sDothan Hoops Classic tournament, is to be played in Coach Oppert’s honor.
“That was such a shock to me. I looked up on the video and it showing all these things back when I was a little kid and I said what is going on here,” Oppert said.
He credits his family for his success.
“My wedding anniversary is the 27th of December and so 13 of these 14 years I’ve been in the gym on the 27th when the tournament is going on, but my family has had to make a lot of sacrifices and my wife over the years has done a lot of things to help me in my coaching," Oppert said.
Coach Oppert has and continues to make impacts in his players lives on and off the court.
“I’ve coached guys that are now doctors, dentists and lawyers that means you’re maybe doing it the right way. A lot of people won more games like I said before it’s my responsibility to set the right example and hopefully I’ve done that," Oppert said.
His ultimate goal - “I guess I hope I leave a legacy of good sportsmanship and all the good things and try to eliminate the bad," Oppert said.