BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The Wenonah community gave their final farewells to girls basketball coach Emanuel Bell on Saturday.
Family, friends, former players and other members of the community came together at Lawson State for the funeral. Bell passed away on January 31.
Bell, 64, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in August 2016.
“We talked about a lot of stuff and he was jolly, coach Bell, because he’s a kind person. A very considerate person. He cares about everybody, he always wanted to do something from somebody, but his heart was Wenonah High School,” says former Wenonah High Principal Regina Carr-Hope.
Under Bell, the Lady Dragons won four consecutive state championships from 2014-17. He compiled a 529-194 overall record and won five total championships during his 25-year coaching career.
Bell received numerous honors a coach of the year and was the recipient of the Frank House Award in 2017, presented by the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
Birmingham City Schools in a release did not confirm Bell’s passing but did say he was at work at Wenonah High School today when he fell ill and was transported to an area hospital.
Wenonah was scheduled to play at Mountain Brook tonight, which has been canceled. We will provide more information when it is available.
AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese released the following statement:
"Our AHSAA family of member schools has lost a special person in Coach Emanuel Bell,” said AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese. “His love for teaching and coaching was only surpassed for his love of his players. He had an impact on all who knew him. We are all very fortunate that he chose to teach and coach at Wenonah High School.
“His legacy will live on in the hearts and soul of those he helped mold into outstanding adults. Our hearts and prayers go out to Coach Bell’s family, his team, his school and all who loved him. He fought a valiant fight and now I can only imagine that he is organizing a team and coaching in heaven tonight. Yes, I am sure with his contagious smile that he is working the crowd and hugging everyone in sight. Heaven has a new angel and we have lasting memories of Coach Bell.
“His life of service is one we should all emulate. He will be missed by us all.”
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin posted a statement on social media.
"I was saddened to hear of the passing of Wenonah High School girls’ basketball coaching legend Emanuel Bell. Coach Bell cared about his players on and off the court. He made sure they took time to do their homework when they were away from the classroom, and he showed them how far teamwork could take them to victory and beyond.
"His students went on to secure state basketball championships and several college scholarships. While at Wenonah, he was known as a “dynasty maker,’’ coaching the girls’ varsity basketball team to four straight 5A state wins - from 2014 to 2017.
"In 2017, Coach Bell led the team to a 5A victory while battling lung cancer. He was a champion on the court and off, facing challenges and achievements with a smile. He set a standard of excellence that we should all try to replicate. I will always remember his motto as he fought lung cancer: ‘Faith, Not Fear.’ It was an honor to know him. "