E.A. Sports Today

Family ties

Justin Amberson approved as new Wellborn boys basketball coach, gives the Panthers a husband-wife set of basketball head coaches

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Basketball has always been a hot topic in the Amberson household, but it will be on the menu even more now there are two head coaches in the house.

Wellborn welcomed Justin Amberson as its new boys basketball coach, giving the Panthers the county’s first husband-wife basketball head coaching duo in recent memory. Mindi Amberson is beginning her second season as the Lady Panthers’ varsity girls coach.

“That’s kind of cool,” the new coach said. “We do a lot of things together. “It’s going to be fun. I think it’s a great thing.”

This is actually Justin’s second stint with the Panthers. He was brought on four years ago to coach the junior high boys basketball team, but was out the next year when county schools superintendent Donald Turner enforced a policy of only having certified teachers serving as coaches.

As it is, Amberson, 40, is under contract to coach the Wellborn basketball team. His day job is as a life skills teacher and member of the leadership staff of Hope Christian Academy, a soon-to-start K-12 private school in Oxford that may at some point have an athletics program.

But he is totally committed to the Panthers and looking forward to helping them turn things around. He steps into a program starving for success, but it shouldn’t take him long to get to know his players. He coached most of them on that junior high team so his association has come full circle.

He will be the varsity’s fourth head coach in five years and succeeds Barry Ryan, who moved into administration shortly before the start of the school year.

“It’s been some years (Wellborn has enjoyed basketball success); I know the potential is there,” he said. “I’m not just taking this because I have nothing to do or something I don’t see could happen. I know these kids. I believe in these kids. I want to see them succeed.

“I know it’s got to start with a mindset; they’ve got to have a change of mindset to change the direction of the basketball climate there. I believe with this group, they’re the ones who can turn it around. Wellborn has a lot of great athletes and I feel sometimes we don’t shine as much as I know we can sometimes. They have a grit and a heart that I want to let out.”

Amberson played his high school ball at Piedmont and had a tryout with Gadsden State before moving on to culinary school in Birmingham. His career may have taken a turn away from the athletic arena, but he’s always had a hand in coaching something.

He helped with his wife’s basketball team last year in an unofficial capacity, usually sitting on the end of the bench and providing assistance and encouragement where needed. Sometimes, he got a little carried away – “I might’ve been told by a referee or two to sit down, but nothing major,” he said – but his intentions always were good.

“He’s volunteered for years in a coaching position, so for him to get this head position is a blessing for him, but also for our basketball program,” Mindi said. “He has taught me so much about what to look for in game film and how to use it for play making. Now, we get to add boys film to our weekly family nights.

“My husband is my rock. Those who know me personally know how much of a support he is. He is selfless and strong in his faith. He knows when to push me and others further than we could ever believe possible. He also knows when to tell me to rest and regroup. I know these are gifts he will continue to use as a coach.”

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