ABILENE, Texas – Ron Holmes, who won 347 games in his 20-year stint as head basketball coach at McMurry University, will be honored on Saturday, Jan. 21, when the playing surface will officially be named “Ron Homes Court at Kimbrell Arena” during a ceremony held between the women’s and men’s basketball games against Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Holmes’ success as McMurry’s men’s basketball coach from 1990-2010 is among the best the region has seen in small-college basketball, particularly since the school’s enlistment with the American Southwest Conference and the NCAA Division III in 1996. He compiled 347 wins in 20 seasons, and led McMurry to the NCAA Sweet 16 for two-straight seasons including a run in 2000 where McMurry was the first school in the ASC to reach the NCAA Division III Elite 8.
However, the Van Horn native and McMurry alum incessantly deflected his success to his predecessor Hershel Kimbrell. Kimbrell coached the “Indians” from 1959-1990 compiling 448 wins. In 1995, the university decided to name the basketball and volleyball facility “Kimbrell Arena,” in honor of Coach Kimbrell.
The playing surface endured an overhaul during the summer to incorporate Holmes’ signature on each half of the court in addition to displaying “War Hawks” imagery after McMurry changed its nickname in March of 2011. Many big-time college sports schools have set a precedent for an honor like this including Duke University’s “Coach K” court named after Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse University’s floor named after Jim Boeheim. Holmes’ impact on McMurry University, its athletic department and men’s basketball program is more than deserving of the types of honors bestowed upon legendary coaches.
“It’s humbling, and I’m honored when I think about guys like Rick Penny, Keith Sullivan, Randall Causey Marc Case, and others,” said Holmes. “Those guys are more deserving of basketball honors than me; there are a lot of unsung heroes. So, on behalf of all those guys who put themselves second, I’ll accept it, but it isn’t about me.”
Holmes played for Kimbrell in the mid 1970’s and coached in high school at Brownfield before returning to his alma mater. He compiled a 347-185 record while at McMurry, which is the highest winning percentage of any McMurry men’s basketball coach. He led McMurry to five conference championships and has at least a share in seven ASC West Division titles including the latest during the
2008-09 school year. McMurry men’s basketball has nine 20-win seasons in its history, and Coach Holmes has been the coach for six of them. Holmes’ teams reached the NCAA Division III Elite Eight in 1999-2000 and Sweet Sixteen in 2000-2001. Those squads earned a combined record of 51-6 and only lost one regular-season ASC matchup in those two seasons.
With only one full season removed from being head coach, Holmes, now McMurry’s athletic director, said that keeping up with former teammates, staff members and players is his favorite way to reflect on his two-decade experience as head coach. “Every Homecoming or anytime you’re around a bunch of guys, and they ask about you, or you’ve heard that they’ve asked about you, that’s the best part,” said Holmes. “Whether it’s on campus or off campus, the best part is the relationships that were established at McMurry.”
Holmes credits his family and a multitude of unnamed supporters that made his experience possible.
“There wouldn’t be “Ron Holmes Court” if it weren’t for [my wife] Leta [and daughters] Linsey and Rachael,” he said. “And, if you broaden the family brush, there’s Hershel Kimbrell, Bynum Miers and hundreds of people who invested. They just wanted to see good things happen to kids. I was just the instrument, and in some cases, I was the lightning rod. We just happen to be all on the same page in our mission to create a good experience for the student-athletes while they were here at McMurry.”
Holmes also credits his parents, the late Ken and Imogene Holmes, for contributing to the success of McMurry basketball. “They supported their son. They took care of some of the needs that we had with the resources they had at the time, and the contributions were meaningful to us,” Holmes said. “I am profoundly grateful for having every need met by my parents financially, spiritually and emotionally.”
Matt Garnett was Holmes’ immediate successor as head coach at McMurry last season before departing to take the head coaching job at Wayland Baptist and J.D. Isler was hired to replace Garnett. Both men were influential in the re-naming of the court and the ceremony on November 28th.
Isler said that Holmes’ reputation as a good man was one of the reasons he accepted the head coaching job at McMurry in June of 2011. “A big factor in accepting the coaching job here was that I would be working for Ron. I constantly get calls, emails and meet men that played for Ron. They all tell me stories about the positive impact that Ron had on them not only as players, but more importantly as
men,” Isler said. “They talk about him being a Christian influence. I think the greatest compliment a coach could ever receive is that he made a difference in the lives of his players. It is very fitting to honor him with the naming of the court as he is a living example of what McMurry University wants its reputation to stand for.”
Garnett, who spent two seasons as an assistant to Holmes before his stint as head coach last season, said the most noticeable thing to him about Holmes was the pride he had in McMurry. “Year in and year out, Coach Holmes put a team on the floor that was playing for a championship. To do that each year is a testament to his drive, hard work and pride in his school,” said Garnett. “Coach always refers to McMurry as his school, and he coached that way. His passion and love for McMurry spilled over to his teams. They represented the school on the basketball court at a championship level for many years.”
For fifty-one years, McMurry’s men’s basketball program had the benefit of stability in just two coaches and nearly 800 wins to its credit with Kimbrell and Holmes. As long as the Hunt P.E. Center stands, the basketball facility within will honor the two legends that coached hundreds of players, entertained thousands of fans, and touched countless lives in the McMurry community and beyond. Garnett sums up the sentiments of his many friends and protégés: “Coach Holmes, like Coach Kimbrell, is McMurry basketball; the program would not be where it is today without him.”