Head Coach Tony Irons has been one of the most well respected high school basketball coaches, not only in the Midwest, but in the country at Vashon High School which is located in St. Louis, Missouri.
He has led the Wolverines to five total MSHSAA state championships, recently winning this past high school season, and holds six in total as a head coach.
I had a chance to sit and speak with Coach Irons regarding his success and he is very much excited with his group he has again coming into the 2022-2023 high school season.
“Last year was kind of surreal a little bit. We only had one senior last year and it was kind of different than what is has been in the past regarding veteran leadership. Our guys just did a good job with really buying in, playing together, and just working. We just started playing our best basketball at the right time.” He explained reflecting on this past season’s state championship team.
I asked Irons how did it feel winning another state title, especially with a young group he had?
“It was fun, it was awesome. Going into the season, the expectation for us is to be there at the end. Last year was really one of the first years we did not really have those expectations. It made it even more fun to really concentrate on getting better and not really worrying about all the noise. It was really just us playing basketball the right way and just enjoying it.” He answered.
Tony Irons has started an amazing culture at Vashon since he has been there and again, leading them to multiple MSHSAA class 4A state championships. I asked him about the culture at the St. Louis powerhouse and to just talk about the national level as a public school out the Midwest.
“My Dad coached at Vashon for 33 years. When I got to Vashon one of the things I wanted to do was to make sure our kids knew historically a lot of the guys that came before them and some of the things that they did. I think it is important for our kids to see people that kind of look like them, play like them, and that were in the same situation as them.
We wanted to bring back some of that historical content, but at the same time make it our own too. It is definitely a family oriented situations, that is what we try to do. A lot of our former players come back and workout with our kids and stay in touch with them. People that have played at Vashon in the past want to see the program continue the success. We want our kids to have aspirations to play ball at the next level since I’ve been there. 90% of our kids that have went through our program have gone on to receive basketball scholarships.
That is something that we try to push to let them know. You don’t necessarily play at Vashon just to play, you play there to have opportunities to reach the next level. They have to play basketball the right way. They will get pushed, compete, and earn everything that they get.” He went on to explain.
The Wolverines are currently one of the top public schools and one of the top overall teams coming into the 2022-2023 high school season right now. Vashon is expected to play a national schedule that will feature stops at the famous City of Palms Classic (Fort Myers) and Spalding Hoophall Classic (Springfield).
“Obviously It is definitely going to be a little bit different than last year. Last year there weren’t really any expectations, this year it will probably be a little bit more. It was our job to put a schedule together to challenge our kids, put them in platforms, and to get exposure. Also about educational experience for our kids. We going to a Hoopfest in Utah next season and our kids, including myself, will be able to see Mountains for the first time. A lot of our inner city kids never really get a chance to experience things like that. It is important for our kids to see different atmospheres, not only from a basketball stand point, but from a personal one as well. I just want them to have the opportunities to see different things and then from a basketball standpoint, help push them and grow as players.
Irons is also currently the head coach for the Bradley Beal Elite Nike EYBL 17U squad. The Nike EYBL is by far the toughest grassroots circuit in the country.
Bradley Beal has been known to support his AAU program, not only financially, but also personally being at the games on the bench in person as well consistently.
I asked Coach Irons to just reflect and talk about the message Bradley Beal brings to the kids and supporting his age groups.
“One thing about Brad he is really authentic. He is not only one of the greatest basketball players in the world, he is a great person on top of that. He is really invested in his program. It is easy to just throw money out there and support it from a financial standpoint, but he is as hands-on as much as he can be with his busy schedule.
He doesn’t just come to the 17U games, he is at the 14U, 15U, and 16U games. He is invested all the way through. It is really big that kids get to pick his brain and interact with him. He is as humble as any star you would think of. He keeps it real, as you saw in the video, and that’s just him being honest, transparent, and expecting our kids to actually play the game the right way.
He wants to be able to provide them with context that he probably wasn’t provided with at the moment. He speaks on that all the time on how he had to learn and he didn’t have NBA guys pretty much telling him what it would take to make it to the NBA. He wants our kids to reach out and ask any questions that they may have. Just being around him and getting a chance to see how he is as a person and interacts with kids. He takes maybe, 300-400 pictures every time he is at a session.