Port St. Joe's legendary coach Eppinette dies at 65


Vern Eppinette battled prostate cancer since 2000 and died at 65 at Bay Medical Center.

Published: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 07:27 PM.

PANAMA CITY — Vern Eppinette, whose coaching career underscored that athletic excellence needn’t come at the expense of grace and dignity, died late Monday night at Gulf Coast Medical Center.

Eppinette, 65, had battled prostate cancer off and on since first diagnosed in 2000. That led to his retirement as a coach at Port St. Joe High School, but he remained on as a teacher for a number of years.

Eppinette’s greatest success came at Port St. Joe, where he guided the Tiger Sharks to five state championships in boys basketball and one in boys track and field. He was inducted into the Florida High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2004.

Funeral services will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. CDT in the R. Marion Craig Coliseum, commonly known as “The Dome” to Port St. Joe fans. The funeral will begin there at 4 p.m.

Eppinette led the Port St. Joe boys basketball team to eight Final Four appearances and five state titles in 10 years, winning four championships consecutively at one point.

His coaching career spanned 26 years, three high schools and was built on the foundation of discipline and sportsmanship. Port St. Joe High School won six consecutive FHSAA Fred E. Rozelle Sportsmanship Awards during his tenure as boys head basketball coach.

Veteran Panhandle coach Matt Anderson was an assistant at Malone when Eppinette arrived at Port St. Joe. The Tigers won a state title that season, and when Anderson took over as head coach added four more consecutively in what became a decade dominated statewide by area teams in lower classifications.

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