Vincent’s Hadder creating legacy

Published 2:21 pm Tuesday, January 12, 2016

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

VINCENT – John Hadder answers the phone and needs just a second before he can talk. He’s in the middle of doing a load of laundry.

“At this point in the year all I do is go to school, go to practice or a game, and do laundry,” Hadder said with a chuckle.

After he has thrown his load of stinking practice jerseys into the washing machine, he steps out and can talk. The reason for the call, in part, is because Hadder has recently won his 150th career game as Vincent’s head boys basketball coach, a 48-44 win over Tuscaloosa Central on Jan. 7.

“I didn’t even know that,” Hadder said. “My assistant told me the other day. I didn’t have any kind of clue. I guess it’s a good thing though, definitely better than the alternative.”

Hadder came to Vincent in 2006, but did not take over the boys program until the 2009-2010 season. In his first six seasons, his teams won an average of 23 games per year and advanced to the 2A Final Four twice in that span while also appearing in four regional tournament finals. He has established unquestionably the most consistent basketball program in the county over the last seven years and also has his current team as the second-ranked squad in 2A with a 15-4 record as of Jan. 12.

That level of sustained excellence breeds curiosity, which in part led us to catch up with and learn more about the quiet, measured leader of the Yellow Jackets basketball program.

A Hueytown native, Hadder played basketball growing up and said he knew from an early age where his true passion lay.

“I always knew I wanted to coach,” Hadder said. “Honestly, looking back I don’t know if I ever gave anything else a thought. That was foolish in a lot of ways. I was kind of naïve as to what teaching was all about and all that went into it.”

After graduating from Alabama in 1996, Hadder immediately got a job teaching at an elementary school in Tuscaloosa. While there, he also coached at Northpoint Junior High School, which at the time was a feeder school for Tuscaloosa County High School. From there he moved to Bottenfield Middle School in Jefferson County, where he spent four years coaching before moving to his current home, Vincent.

Hadder, however, did not come to Vincent to take the basketball job he now has. The Yellow Jackets had actually just hired a new coach earlier in the same summer, and Hadder came to take over the JV team as well as help coach the football team. After a year, he took over the girls varsity program, then two years after that got tapped for the head boys job.

Over the course of the last seven years, Hadder has seen the natural talent at Vincent decline steadily. However, while his most talented teams may have been his first few, the success he has seen on the floor has steadily risen over time.

“It’s one of those deals, any time you take over somewhere early on you’re trying to change the culture a little bit to meet the expectation you have,” Hadder said. “It takes some time for there to be buy-in. Even though the talent level dropped, the results got better. Once the ball starts rolling, it starts to carry over from group to group to group. But you’ve got to have good players. I don’t care who you are or where you’re at, you’ve got to have good players to make it work.”

On the sideline during games he’s measured, calm and level-headed. He rarely yells or even raises his voice at either officials or his players. That’s not to say he’s not competitive, just that his is not a loud personality. He is also not one to accept praise easily. When talking about winning 150 games in less than seven seasons, he shifts the focus, quickly, toward his players.

“That’s great that we’ve won that many games,” Hadder said. “It says our kids have been willing to do what we’ve asked of them and we have had the kids with talent to do it more than it says anything about me.”

Over the past few years, bigger schools have come calling for Hadder’s services, and while the allure of a bigger school and a bigger staff would be enough to whisk some away, that is not the case here. Hadder has remained at Vincent, in part because of the connection he has made with the kids in his program.

“I’ve had opportunities I didn’t act on,” Hadder said. “I think some people kind of think that if you’re at a bigger school it means you’re a bigger and better coach. If I’m somewhere where I have kids that will work and are coachable, I’m happy.”

Whether Hadder will retire at Vincent remains to be seen. For now, however, he is happy where he is. What is certain is that he will continue to keep the Yellow Jackets as a top contender in 2A from year to year with new names and faces, and will keep embracing all aspects of life as a small-school coach as long as he is there.

Laundry and all.