East Hall has its mojo back.
And it’s got everything to do with Joe Dix returning to the sideline, coaching basketball again in Valhalla.
On Tuesday, Dix was announced as the Vikings’ new boys basketball coach.
In the 48 hours since, Dix said his phone has not stopped ringing with calls and alerting him with new text messages from Vikings supporters.
“I have been overwhelmed with the amount of support in coming back to coach at East Hall,” said Dix, who estimated he’s responded to 300 people, so far. “It’s exciting and given me a boost of energy at the same time."
It was news that was met with immediate attention and resounding applause by basketball fans, inside and outside of Hall County, some who might only have a modicum of knowledge of Dix’s tradition as coach at East Hall.
Few Hall County sports traditions pair together better that Vikings basketball with Dix leading the charge.
It’s hard to match the familiar chants of ‘Eeeeeasssst Hall’ reverberating through its gym during the winter.
And having Dix back in charge means the Vikings will start dreaming of putting together those trademark championship teams that went all the way to Macon, in years gone by.
In his first stint as East Hall head coach, from 2005-2018, the Vikings continued their tradition with a state championship his first season in charge, along with three state semifinal appearances, six region championships and five Hall County titles in Lanierland.
He returns with more than 300 career wins as head coach for the Vikings, during his 14 seasons, after his first eight years at the school were as an assistant coach.
The energy in the gym that’s generated by Dix bouncing up and down, calling out assignments from the sidleine, is unparalleled.
During the heat of battle, his tie is askew and, eventually, his suit jacket will be discarded haphazardly onto the bench.
It’s not out of anger, but passion for East Hall basketball that Dix acts so impulsively during the game.
Fans will fill the bleachers each and every game to see Dix’s product on the court, win or lose.
It’s what East Hall basketball is all about: community pride in a unique local tradition.
A tip of the cap goes to Tommy Yancey, who guided the Vikings’ program to a 16-9 mark and Lanierland championship last season, before stepping down and accepting the same position with Habersham Central.
Yancey did wonders to restoring the pride in the Vikings on the basketball court.
However, there is only one many at East Hall who achieved more than Dix, that was his predecessor Seth Vining, who won more than 700 games in his legendary career.
Before Yancey stepped down at East Hall, Dix was fully content with his position at Collins Hill, having guided the program to state three straight seasons.
However, the dominos started to fall in order, and before he knew it, Dix was on the receiving end of a phone call of inquiry from East Hall’s administration.
With his firm roots in Hall County, including his family with his wife, three grown children and an 11-year-old son who is coming up in the school system, Dix gave it a thoughtful consideration.
And the answer was a resounding yes.
Dix wil finish out the current school year with the Gwinnett County Schools. However, he’s going to get a head start in meeting with his returning players to get a feel for his prospective talent at East Hall.
And, next week, East Hall’s coach will be on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at its final home baseball game of the season.
None of his future East Hall players have been through a season with Joe Dix in charge.
They’re about to find out.
East Hall’s coach goes 100 percent, all the time.
He demands attention to detail, not perfection.
And he’s going to find the right five players to put on the floor.
“We’re going to hit the ground running, literally,” Dix said.
However, it’s Dix’s larger-than-life personality that makes him most valuable to sports at East Hall and all of Hall County.
Bottom line: having Joe Dix back in Hall County is a benefit for the entire local sports scene.
Bill Murphy is sports editor of The Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.