The ending of an era:

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 7, 2002

Goshen coach Major Lane calls it quits


Sports Editor

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People make them everyday. Some have little impact while others can a set a person up for success or failure.

For 12 years, Major Lane spent time on the fall grass of a football field as an assistant at both Ariton and Pike County. He knew about life on the gridiron, having spent his junior high years at Houston Hills and in the shadows of Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl. He moved on to Robert E. Lee, then to Alabama State, where he gave up sports to concentrate on academics.

Still, during his leisure time, he kept up with his "first love."

Not football, but basketball.

"I started out playing football, but I became more involved with basketball," said Lane. After 11 years as head coach of Goshen, he’s decided to step away from the basketball program he helped put on the state map. "I was pretty much a gym rat. I’d always try to get with people who were very knowledgeable about the game. I learned a lot from them and just decided that was the direction I wanted to go in."

Lane surrounds himself with memories in his small office at Goshen, where he’s also the school’s assistant principal. A picture of his wife and three daughters. Photos of his Final Four teams from 1996 and 2001. A Kentucky basketball schedule.

Lane learned early to seek out those who knew the game of basketball. For a few years in October, Lane and fellow coach Elvin Frazier would take a trip to Lexington, to be instructed by one of the best, Wildcats’ head coach Tubby Smith.

"We’d pick up a lot of different things that helped us and helped form our philosophy," said Lane. "We started running some things that was similar to what Coach Smith did at Kentucky. It’s been real successful here at Goshen and other places as well."

The job as Eagles’ head coach happened almost by accident. He was in the air force at the time and on his way back to Montgomery, traveling through Pike County. He stopped by, filled out an application and turned it in. He was asked to come in for an interview that day and Lane told them he need to wait at least until tomorrow.

Tomorrow came and he’s been at Goshen ever since.

"I have not had any regrets since that time," he said. "It’s been great. The people I have met down through the years have been outstanding. Above all it’s about the relationships you develop, the relationships that will last a lifetime."

But Lane admits his first few years as a head basketball coach was "trial and error."

"Realistically, I didn’t know what in the world I was doing the first couple of years," he said. "I had to learn from other people."

Kentucky’s Smith was one of those. But Lane found another person closer to home; Johnny Dunn, who’s coached baseball, football and basketball in numerous public schools around Alabama and was at Goshen when Lane came aboard.

"I learned most of my basketball from him," Lane said about Dunn. "I have to say that. Because he took the time and spent a lot of time and effort with me. Even today, if I have questions, I’ll go back and talk to him, because he’s kind of a mentor to me, kind of like a ‘big brother’ figure. He’s always been there for me."

As Lane’s knowledge about the game of basketball increased, so went the Eagles. He built his teams around sharp shooting guards and powerful post players. The names are easy enough to remember, but each recollection calls to light another player that helped build Goshen into one of South Alabama’s best basketball programs.

Damen Maddox. Jamar Tucker. Antrone Rogers. Ken Pelton. Averick Rogers. Ge-Vonne Cooper. Scott Idland.

Lane could list them all.

"You have to think of all of them as being a part of the Goshen family," he said. "Most of them come back every year to help out one way or the other. We have a proud tradition here, a proud group of people who really love this school and what the basketball program stands for here at Goshen."

Lane’s ’96 squad finished the year 26-4, spending a majority of the season ranked No. 1 before falling in the Final Four to Clements, 76-70. Five years later the Eagles were back in Birmingham, but this time it was Mars Hill ending their hopes of a state title, 76-72, in the semifinals.

Lane said he was just grateful he and his players were given a chance to be there.

"I think that with any head coach, it’s the pinnacle of success to win that final game," Lane said, when asked his feelings on the Eagles’ two trips to the Final Four. "But I know there’s a lot of head coaches that don’t get the opportunity to make it to the Final Four, or make it to the Sweet Sixteen. I’m just thankful to God we were able to get there and experience what was going on there and just know you can achieve if you work hard and do the right things."

Lane will remain in his job as assistant principal and should the new Eagles’ basketball coach have any questions, Lane’s office is just a few feet away from the gymnasium.

He does have mixed emotions about leaving the job he loved, though.

"This is my longest tenure at any particular school," he said. "It was the opportunity to work with some outstanding young men who eventually would become outstanding citizens. That’s what coaching is all about. You want to develop athletic ability, but at the same time you want to produce people who are outstanding in their communities."