By Kevin Wilson
Basketball took Matt Vail from Grants to Portales to Las Vegas, N.M., to Montana and back to Grants.
For one night, it brought him back to Portales as well.
Vail, a former standout for the Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball team, was on the bench as an assistant coach for the Grants Lady Pirates in Friday’s Class 3A Region B title game.
Vail, a 1996 Grants graduate , felt the chance to get back into basketball was too good to pass up.
“There’s no way I could (refuse),” Vail said. “I had been away from the game for two years. Just getting an opportunity to be coaching, I had to take it.”
The 1996-97 Lone Star Conference freshman of the year, Vail scored 1,004 points in three seasons to become the No. 19 scorer in ENMU’s history. He was released from his commitment late in his junior year due to differences with then-Greyhound coach Terry Tyler, and played his final season at New Mexico Highlands.
After playing a season with the Billings (Mont.) Rimrockers of the International Basketball Association, Vail came back to New Mexico and was a sports director for a Boys and Girls Club in Tohatchi. He now works for his grandfather’s pottery business, and holds a second job on the Grants bench.
“He’s got good basketball knowledge,” Grants coach Joe Hernandez said. “It’s a little different for him because he’d never had to coach girls. He’s a good addition to our program.”