Leslie Broadhurst and his beloved Randall Raiders are headed to the UIL Texas boys state basketball tournament.
All is right in the world for those believing good guys finish first.
Finally, the man with the constant/friendly smile and joke teller extreme who owns the rarest ability to make your day better after talking to him is state bound. Finally, the man in 1974 as a Friona High 9th grader first experienced a state boys basketball tournament in Austin’s legendary Gregory Gym with his preacher dad, Charles, is coaching a team at state.
Finally, the man as senior in high school playing a varsity football game for Lubbock Monterey on the road at snowy, bitter-cold Hereford looked down at his feet he couldn’t feel and decided “this is the day I officially became a basketball coach, I want to stay in the gym” has the Randall High Raiders for the first time ever in the UIL game program of the boys state basketball tournament.
Finally, the only remaining faculty member from the day Randall High opened its door for the first time in the fall of 1988 will stalk the sideline of a state tournament game.
Finally, the man beginning his Randall High coaching career with a surprising win over Palo Duro and today can incredibly reel off the names of the Palo Duro players (of course, he rattles off every Raiders player on that team) in a game played 35 years ago will draw up plays and ask refs for timeouts at the state tournament.
Finally, after coaching 1,106 games as the Randall head boys basketball coach the next game will be at the UIL state basketball tournament Friday in San Antonio in the Class 4A semifinals vs. Oak Cliff Faith Family.
“When we all arrived at Randall we thought this could happen,” Broadhurst said of 1988. “It’s just taken a little longer than I thought it would.”
Oh, not that Broadhurst and his Raiders players hadn’t tried like all heck to end this streak long before 35 years.
Entering last weekend’s impressive Region I-4A title game win over rival Canyon 59-44 – a team Randall had lost twice to in district – Broadhurst had brought eight Randall teams to regionals.
None had made it out.
Toss in Broadhurst’s three times at regionals as a Borger High assistant under mentor and coaching legend Duane Hunt, then earning a regional berth his one year as Moton High’s head coach, and all told Broadhurst hadn’t been able to unlock the regional door to the state basketball tournament 12 times before Saturday.
That would drive even the most sane coach insane, right? Wrong.
Now, as Broadhurst puts it nobody wants to not only win games, but win state, any more than he and his players at Randall High.
“But to me, and to a lot of coaches, you don’t coach just to win a state championship,” Broadhurst said. “You coach to help kids grow into young men. To learn what a team is and what a teammate is. To learn to love each other and care for each other. Heck, I’m being honest. I never started coaching simply to win a state championship.”
Still, Broadhurst knows the pain is real walking away from regionals without that ticket to state in hand, especially from the 1997-98 thru 2000-01 seasons.
During those four seasons the Raiders were the team with the target on their backs in this area putting up seasons of 25, 26, 29 and 34 wins, claiming three district titles, a district runner-up and winning 13 playoff games.
Oh yeah, and all four of those years the Raiders reached the regional finals, one step away from putting Randall High in its first state tournament.
The 1997-98 Raiders, the first in school history to reach a regional final, fell to Lamesa 68-50.
Jimmy Webb was the star of that team. Webb remains Randall’s all-time leading rebounder for a season at 408 and in 1998 earned district MVP, all-region first team and second team all-state.
Webb had a unique situation in that Broadhurst is his oldest cousin as their moms were sisters. So Webb has followed the Raiders closely in the 25 years since his playing days.
What was Webb’s reaction when he learned Randall was headed to state?
“It wasn’t that I got a call he won,” said Webb, currently an accounting professor at Hillsdale College in Minnesota. “My mom was probably texting every two minutes in the second half. ‘There are six minutes left in the fourth quarter and we are up 12.’ Do you ever watch those ESPN games where they have the probability chart telling you how likely you are to win? I’m like we are 99 percent. Even before I saw the videos that popped up on twitter, I’m crying for him because of this whole process.
“It’s such a wonderful thing for him to have invested so much in the school and been close so many times. It’s not that he had stinkers of teams all these years, we’ve been so close. Whether they win a game at state or not, this is just a wonderful achievement for him to get to experience.”
In 1999, Randall lost to eventual state champion Crowley 57-41 in the regional final.
Then it was true back-to-back seasons of checking into Heartbreak Hotel in 2000 and 2001.
In 2000, Randall lost to eventual state champion Denton Ryan in the final 46-41, a game Randall led in the second half and was at one possession very late before a couple of controversial calls went Ryan’s way.
In 2001, the Raiders entered regionals 33-1 and opened eyes statewide blitzing No. 1-ranked Fort Worth Dunbar in the semifinals leading by 17, before settling on 71-64 win.
In the regional finals at Odessa College, it was a familiar foe in district rival Hereford, a team featuring Cody and Slade Hodges (future Texas Tech football players). Randall had beaten Hereford in both district meetings and led the Herd by 10 at halftime in the regional finals. Hereford rallied for a 48-43 win.
The 34 wins remain the most by a Randall team in school history. That loss crushed Broadhurst. That loss also bonded that 2000-2001 team for life and to this day they have “Randall Raider” group chat on their phones consisting of players off that team only.
The Randall Raider group chat was alive and kicking while Randall was putting it on Canyon last Saturday. But while many of the Raider faithful were whopping and hollering over Randall’s double-digit lead over Canyon at half, not the 2000-2001 Raiders.
Garrett Pool was a hustling, fast starting senior guard on the 2000-01 Raiders. Randall’s win over the weekend brought him to tears he is proud to say because of the respect and love he has for Coach Broadhurst.
“I’m part of a Randall Raider group text and it’s that basketball team right there from 2001,” Pool said. “We talk regularly. If you could go back and tell the younger version of yourself no matter what you think basketball is bringing to you, the most important thing is the relationships you are building. When you are kid, you don’t really understand that. Relationship, naw I’m trying to go to the NBA.
“So at halftime against Canyon, three or four us texted each other and said nobody say anything. We are like shut up and wait. It was very clear they were focused. We were so thrilled and I don’t mind saying a couple of us, and I was one, teared up. It was crazy. That moment in your life comes rushing back 22 years later.”
Part of Pool’s emotions surfaced as over the years the 2001 team felt they might have blown it for the guy they simply call Coach. That guy Leslie Broadhurst.
“Oh, I was watching the stream,” Pool said. “I tell you what we were up 12 at halftime of our game in 2001, so being up at halftime of that one didn’t give me any peace of mind. But boy, howdy, once we knew they had it it was pretty emotional for me and actually for a few of my teammates. I know that for a fact. Because we wanted it so much for Coach. As the years went on we started feeling guilty because we were the most capable. If he doesn’t make it that’s on us.
“We put a lot in it. Some of the pressure was warranted and some of it was an inflated view of self as 18 year old kids. Thank goodness this group did it, now the monkey is off our backs. Every year we have rooted for Coach.”
When Coach Broadhurst took the Randall job in 1988 he asked a man he considers wise what advice he had for him.
Broadhurst knew Randall would be a special place to coach and he wanted to do things right.
“I asked my dad for advice,” Broadhurst said. “My dad told me, ‘Hey, I moved around to a different church every four or five years.’ He said if I had to do it all over again I would find a place I really liked and commit to that place and build and do it the right way. You are going to have up and down years but just be consistent. I took his advice. We have had a great seasons and not so great. That’s just high school sports. But every year we have had great kids.”
Broadhurst stayed and stayed at Randall High.
His overall record with Randall is 647-469, winning four district titles, owning 13 district runner-up finishes, nine regional tournament appearances, reaching five regional finals, winning one precious regional title and some 500 players know him as Coach.
Maybe that’s why after beating Canyon and finally tasting what it’s like to qualify for state, the outpouring of love and memories has overwhelmed Broadhurst:
- Larry Christian, the man who first hired Broadhurst as a coach at Lubbock High, at age 78 attended the Canyon-Randall game.
- Broadhurst looked up across to the stands from his bench with about three minutes to play in the regional final and that smile of his came to his face. He will never forget what seeing his wife, Heather, with her hands in front of her in the praying position.
- He looked at the top of the stands and there was his dad, the man who played on a state championship game for Gruver in the 1950s going crazy with joy.
- The hundreds of text messages and phone calls from former players, a classy message from a Canyon player’s dad congratulating him, parents of players 20 years ago saying way to go, coaches all over the state and on and on.
Broadhurst shrugging it off saying, “When you are old, you know a lot of people.”
Broadhurst said without a doubt the regional championship win was for all Raiders players in the past and credited his current team for their work ethic and talent.
“Let’s be honest, without really good players this never happens,” Broadhurst said. “We posted on our Raider Legacy page to all our former basketball players, ‘Guys, this is for all of you. This team really is honored to be the one to make it. But you all are a part of it. It’s not just this year’s team. It’s 35 years ago when Zack, Darby, Scott and all those guys played, it’s their team too.”
Webb is the player from the first-ever regional final Randall team and Broadhurst is his “oldest cousin.” The outpour of love Webb said isn’t because of all the excellent Xs and Os you learn as a Raider from Coach.
“I think hearing from some of the current players,” Webb said, “they are aware enough of the school to realize they’ve done something great, but it’s just a wonderful accomplishment for him and the school, too. I have really appreciated hearing that from a few of the players how happy they were for him.
“He loves on everybody. He’s such a giver of developing young men. I had family challenges when I was right in that high school age. … he is family but he also played a significant role as a male role model in my life and I know he does that for everybody.
“If you talk to other players who have played for him from the past he keeps up with us. He is invested in us. It’s just not Xs and Os. He emotionally walked us through some fragile years in our coming of age. That was part of playing for him was just not we have to win at all costs, but I’m here for you. I love you. I’m 42 years old now and he’s probably one of the top two or three people in my life, family or not, who has invested in my life. So there is a forever loyalty we have to him as former players.”
Current players and assistants, too, appreciate Coach Broadhurst and his style.
Randall has one senior starter on this year’s team in Brody Wilson. Wilson saw a sight he’s never seen before with Coach Broadhurst after the win over Canyon.
“I looked forward to going to state since last year,” Wilson said. “As we got closer and closer I got more excited but the excitement wasn’t for me it was for Coach. Because I wanted to see him in that tournament more than anyone else. … I can’t say I’ve ever seen him more happy than Saturday (after the regional win).”
Broadhurst year’s have also produced loyal assistants like Barry Stephens for 15 years, and current assistants Kyle Hewitt and Trevor Johnson.
Johnson is in year 10 with Coach Broadhurst and said the Basketball Gods got it right after 35 years of waiting.
“I’ve never seen him more happy and I think it was more shock than anything,” Johnson said when the buzzer blew ending the regional final. “Once the team got to him, man, I’ve never seen him smile like that. It was so cool. I’m so happy for him. Nobody deserves it more. The amount of work he pours into this team. This is his life. And there’s not a guy that is more of a player’s coach than him in the state of Texas. What’s he’s done here, he is Randall High School.”
And so, how will Mr. Randall High react when he finally steps on the floor at the state tournament as a coach on Friday afternoon in San Antonio?
“I don’t know, I haven’t done it yet,” Broadhurst said. He then breaks into that smile of his and says, “But I’m sure glad I get to finally find out.”
Yes indeed, Leslie Broadhurst has his Randall Raiders in the UIL Texas boys basketball tournament.
No doubt, all is finally right in the basketball world.