Humor helped Mike Vining through many a speaking engagement as the ULM basketball coach.
Early in his career, Vining was uncomfortable in front of a crowd. But he quickly learned to quip his way through it.
Inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame on June 26 in Natchitoches, La., Vining brought a light-hearted approach to the stage in his acceptance speech.
"I feel kind of like the lady whose husband passed away," said Vining, who won 401 games and made seven NCAA appearances in 24 years as ULM's head coach. "They didn't have a real good marriage. The preacher was up there going on and on and on about the man in the casket. The lady got up and made her way toward the casket. They grabbed her and told her to sit back down. Where are you going? I'm going to see who they've got in that casket."
Laughs. Vining had more.
"They say miracles come in threes," Vining said. "You've seen ‘em tonight. Dale Brown and Orlando Wooldridge each took less than three minutes. Mike Vining from Goodwill, Louisiana is going into the Hall of Fame."
Wooldridge was part of the 2010 class with Vining while Brown, via video, introduced fellow inductee Ben McDonald.
"This is like Christmas to me," Vining continued. "Even better than Christmas for me. All my family came to see me and I don't have to buy any presents."
More laughs. More about his upbringing in Goodwill.
"I've got three sisters here and one brother here," Vining said. "There were eight of us. Four boys and four girls. That's where I learned humility and teamwork and humility and being on time and discipline and humility. See, in a large family in the country when you're kind of poor, you wear a lot of hand-me-downs. My sisters were all older than me."
Vining finished on a serious note.
"I owe most of this to Dr. Dwight Vines, President Vines, who gave me the opportunity to coach and be the head coach," Vining said. "It was Coach (Lenny) Fant who hired me to become an assistant coach. Then there were the many players who came in and bought into the system that if all played together and we played hard, we would be better at the end of the year than we were at the beginning of the year. If we brought the right people in, we'd be the champions. We were able to do that enough times that I'm receiving this honor for all those people. Without the support of the administration, the athletic department,the support staff -- well maybe not Mona's support (a friendly shot at women's coach Mona Martin) -- we wouldn't have been able to do these things that would bring me up here here today. For that, I'm very humbled and I appreciate it very much. Thank you and God bless."
And tip your waiters.