MONTGOMERY – Peter Braasch stands alone in the Class of 2017 and is one of only a few selected to the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame whose career has been as an assistant coach rather than a head coach.
Braasch, however, is likely Alabama’s most decorated assistant coach. He received the Alabama Football Coaches Association’s Assistant Football Coach of the Year award in 2009 and an AHSAA “Making a Difference Award” in 2012. He was elected to the Vestavia Hills Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
A native of Birmingham, he graduated from Homewood High School in 1973 and from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1977.
“One might question why an assistant head coach should qualify for the Hall of Fame,” wrote VHHS Head Football Coach Buddy Anderson, who was inducted into the HOF in 2003. “It is because Peter is the epitome of who and what a high school coach should be to young people. He demands the best from his players and, at the same time, inspires them to stretch beyond their abilities. Most of all, he has a love and concern for young people that goes far beyond the years they played for him.
“He has helped a vast number of former players later their lives. He has been known on many occasions to hear about a former player who is not acting or living as he should, and then to show up at his house or even college apartment and do whatever he could to help get the young person back on the right track.”
Anderson said Braasch’s selfless nature and role model makes him stand out among all individuals.
“Peter has won several accolades in his career, but the one that stands out is the AHSAA “’Making a Difference’ Award…He truly does make a difference in the lives of the young people he teaches and coaches…He is the role model for commitment, loyalty, integrity, character, and love for his athletes. He is everything an assistant coach should be.”
Braasch joined to faculty at Vestavia Hills High School in 1977. For the next 37 years he would serve the school in a variety of positions in multiple sports. They included football, basketball and track & field.
When he retired as Vestavia Hills defensive coordinator at the end of the 2014 season, he left a huge hole in Anderson’s staff. Anderson is currently the AHSAA’s all-time wins leader with 325 wins in 39 years as Rebels’ head coach. Braasch was defensive coordinator for 34 of those seasons. Together they guided Vestavia Hills to state championships in 1980 and 1998 and to the finals in 1978 and 1979.
Braasch’s tenure with the Rebels’ basketball program has also been impressive. He served as assistant head coach from 1990-2014 with another Alabama High School Hall of Famer George Hatchett. His job, of course, was to manage the Rebels’ defensive schemes. He helped the Rebels win state championships in 1992 and 2009 and reach the semifinals in 2000 and 2011.
Braasch served as assistant coach in track & field from 1978 to 1994. During that period he was also head coach of the freshman team which won the state championship in 1993.
Retired Principal Cas McWaters wrote, “Over the past 37 years I have had the privilege to be a student under his tutelage, a peer coach with him, and serve as his principal. Writing this recommendation for Coach Braasch is easy. I have watched Peter grow into a truly legendary teacher and coach. I wish we could ‘bottle’ what Coach Braasch has and inject it into every coach in our nation.
“While Coach Braasch has built a reputation as a defensive mastermind, watching him coach students is really what he masters. When he teaches practice and game strategy, his students are so engaged I think sometimes they believe they are forming the game plan themselves. He players are truly ‘students of the game’ and believe they beat anyone. While I recognize the great accomplishment of being an assistant coach for the same head coach for 37 years, I am most impressed with Coach Braasch’s ability to change with the times and impact students. Peter Braasch is about students!”
McWaters said he was with Braasch when the coach talked to a student who was threatening suicide. On another occasion Braasch went to a college town to help a former student who was in trouble. On yet another occasion, he intervened to help a former student get into a rehabilitation program.”
Vestavia’s former principal said former players have reached out to Braasch in the good and the bad times.
“He loves his players, and his players know it. Peter Braasch builds boys into men and then mentors them as adults. …his greatest achievement is he has taught young men how to be better sons, brothers and fathers. He displays for young men every day that they can be a man’s man and still have a compassionate heart.”
The Braasch family has had a major impact on athletics at Vestavia Hills over the years. Peter’s sister-in-law, Fran Braasch, coached girls’ basketball for 23 years, winning the 1987 state championship and reaching the semifinals four other times. She is also a member of the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. Her husband and Peter’s brother, Butch Braasch, has been a long-time volunteer coach at the school.
Monday: Fourth installment of the Hall of Fame series: Lanett basketball coach Richard Carter.