CHANCES ARE, if you’ve played basketball, softball, ran track, or been on the bowling team for West Middle School (WMS) or Tullahoma High School (THS) in the last 37 years, you’ve come across the legend, Lamont Snipes.
Known affectionately and respectfully as “Coach Snipes,” he stands over six feet tall with a voice that was meant to call plays and lead athletes to victory.
In an almost 40-year tenure, he has coached undefeated teams, won championships and enjoyed what might seem like a countless number of victories. But at the end day for this local athletic legend, it is not about the wins; it is all about love.
His coaching career began in the late ‘80s at West Middle School. He would go on to help coach softball, track, and basketball at THS and finally land as head coach for the high school bowling team, where he has been for the last nine years. In all that time, he credits himself lucky for having “great athletes.”
“In 1988, I was asked to coach West Middle,” said Snipes. “I was there for nine years. I believe they thought it was me who turned the program around, but it was the athletes. We only lost seven games in nine years with five undefeated seasons. It wasn’t me; I had some good kids. I had athletes.”
Former players such as Cody McMurtry remember just how influential Snipe’s coaching was long after the game was over.
“Coach Snipes coached me from sixth to eighth grade,” he said. “The biggest influence of my coaching career came from Coach Snipes. He always taught us hard work would outlast anything, but at the time, players thought he was simply talking basketball. As I got older and into coaching, I soon realized he was teaching life lessons. He taught us young men at West [Middle School] to treat women with respect, hold doors open for them, say yes ma’am and no sir, and be accountable not only to yourself, your team, [and] your family, but [also] your community.”
Snipes said he has taken pride in helping his players grow as athletes and as people.
“I encouraged love. I love working with students and helping them achieve all they can,” he said.
Former player Mick Shuran said Snipes considers all the students he encounters as family.
“Everyone I know who has encountered Lamont Snipes loves him like family, including me,” he explained. “Anyone you talk to will have similar feelings and experiences. Coach Snipes loves us like family too, which is evident. Every time I see him, there is a smile on his face. And of course sometimes you have to wait in line to see him; he is that popular. I do know this; whether Lamont is coaching basketball, bowling, softball, or simply mentoring young people from the community, he is making a difference and making our community a better place. Although Coach Snipes is one of a kind, this world would be better if we had more of him.”
When asked what he hopes to leave as a legacy, Snipes said he will continue to be involved as long as possible, working with students, and helping them achieve their best. He feels that will best define his legacy.
“It’s just in my blood. And as the saying goes, I will let the life that I live speak for me,” he said. GN