Wade Vickery has been tournament director since the inception of the San Diego Classic 26 years ago.
Calling it a long day would be an understatement. Less than a week before the start of the San Diego Classic, the nation’s largest high school girls basketball tournament, Wade Vickery was making final preparations.
In the morning, Vickery, who has served as tournament director since the event’s inception, drove to the Santana High gym, a place his team called home while he coached the Sultans to 610 wins, 19 league titles and nine San Diego Section championships in 26 years.
Though he hasn’t coached in more than five years, Vickery has been working as a summer fill-in while Santana searches for a varsity girls basketball coach.
Following a short practice that Vickery ended after an hour because he “didn’t want to scare them away,” he got back in his car. Next stop: Canyon Crest Academy in Carmel Valley. After meeting with the site manager to hang banners, post brackets and go over tournament rules, it was on to Cathedral Catholic High and Westview High for more of the same.
As day turned to night, Vickery sat with his family at home sorting T-shirts and stuffing coaches’ packets that will be handed out at registration. The long day was finally coming to a close.
Back in 1987, the first year of the tournament, only eight teams participated. This weekend, there will be 200 competing in gyms around the county.
“Initially, I really just wanted to meet coaches from other areas,” said Vickery, a full-time math teacher at Santana. “It was never my intent for the tournament to keep growing. I had no idea that would happen.”
Yet, as the number of teams in the event rapidly increased, hitting around 250 last summer, Vickery realized he needed help. The responsibility of managing the tournament — while also coaching a team — was taking its toll.
“It got to be too much,” Vickery said. “I made a panicked phone call to my wife, Nancy, so she raced down and has been here ever since.”
Reinforcements have come from the entire Vickery family.
Nancy now serves as site manager at UC San Diego’s RIMAC Arena as well as communicating with all participating coaches and helping coordinate the tournament’s trainers.
“I laugh that she does most of the work and I get most of the credit,” Wade said. “It’s a pretty accurate statement that she runs the show.”
“We’ve always enjoyed helping,” Nancy said. “Since that first call, our family has been all in.”
Son Adam runs the tournament website and updates the brackets. Daughter Carina sells programs and T-shirts.
“The tournament is always a lot of fun,” Adam said. “Toward the end of July, it’s all-day work, but still really enjoyable.”
Wade’s brother, Steve, a highly successful baseball coach at El Capitan High before retiring at the conclusion of this season, serves as site manager at Alliant International University, while sister Sue Kutzner sells tickets and T-shirts at Alliant.
“It’s become a family business for us,” Wade Vickery said. “It’s something we look forward to every year and I don’t foresee giving it up. It’s just too much fun.”"