PORT ST. JOE-- Longtime Port St. Joe teacher and basketball coaching legend Vernon Eppinette has passed away, we're told he died Monday night in Port St. Joe. Coach Eppinette succumbing to cancer, a fight he had waged for the last ten years.
Coach Epp, as many knew him was inducted into the FHSAA coaching Hall of Fame in 2004 after an incredible career at Clermont, Mount Dora and Port St. Joe High Schools. That 26 career including six state championships in basketball and track.
Eppinette competed in basketball, swimming, football and track & field as a high school student in Illinois. He attended Eastern Illinois University and served as a US Marine in the Vietnam War.
He began coaching as an assistant in football, boys basketball and track & field at Clermont High School in 1974, and within a few years was the head basketball, track & field and cross country coach, as well as the athletic director. His teams won five district basketball and nine district track titles, and his second-year cross country program finished sixth in the state in 1988.
Eppinette served a short stint at Mount Dora High School as the boys basketball and track & field coach before moving to Port St. Joe in 1990. There he and his teams were wildly successful, coaching the Sharks to five state championships in boys basketball and one state title in boys track & field from 1990 to 2001.
A five-time Florida Basketball Coach of the Year, Eppinette has been a National High School Coaches Association National Coach of the Year finalist twice. He is a member of the Florida Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame. After reting from coaching more than ten years ago, coach Eppinette continued to teach in the social studies department at Port St. Joe. He eventually retired from teaching during his battle with cancer.
Services for coach Eppinette are tentatively set for Saturday in the Dome at Port St. Joe High school, the site of many of his teams' great victories.