Greatest of All-time: Legendary Canyon coach Joe Lombard announces retirement after 42 seasons
FILE—Canyon Lady Eagles head basketball coach Joe Lombard announced his retirement after 42 years of coaching Tuesday afternoon. [Tom Carver/ Press Pass Sports]
Lombard’s career resume
Coached for 42 years
Seven seasons at Nazareth
35 seasons at Canyon
Overall career record: 1,379-133
UIL state basketball championships: 19 (13 at Canyon; (Six at Nazareth)
UIL State cross country championships: 7
Overall UIL state championships: 26 (Most in UIL history).
42 straight UIL playoff appearances
Six-time Hall of Fame inductee including National Women’s Basketball HOF
2016-17 USA Today National Coach of the Year
Canyon High court named Joe Lombard Gymnasium
The greatest to ever do it.
That’s the common theme when talking to coaches and former players that describe the legendary Canyon Lady Eagles girls basketball coach Joe Lombard.
During an emotional Zoom press conference Tuesday afternoon at the Canyon administration building, Lombard choked back tears as he announced he was hanging up his whistle after 42 years of coaching excellence.
“I felt like it was the right time,” Lombard said. “I have a 97-year old mother I rarely see because I’m always working. I have three grandson’s I’d like to spend more time with. I’ve had some health issues, but I’m doing ok.
“It was difficult decision. “I’m attached to this group of players like any other group. But I wanted to retire on my own terms. I feel I was able to do that. I’m still going to be around and hopefully helping the Lady Eagles next year.”
Joe’s wife, Babs — who won a state championship in 1979 at Hale Center, which is ironically the same year Lombard won his first state title at Nazareth — says it was a draining day, but one that her and her husband knew was coming.
“We’ve talked it about it for several months,” said Babs, who will celebrate 45 years of marriage with Lombard in June. “It was emotional, and i’ll miss it more than anyone would know. I love the game and the camaraderie .It will get better and easier as time goes on, but we’ll be at all the games. It’s hard to realize all these years have gone by.”
Joe Lombard wears his popular tuxedo during his coaching days at Nazareth. [Provided photo]
Lombard went by the nickname “Joe Champion” by the late, great, Tennessee Lady Vols head coach Pat Summit.
Lombard retiring from girls basketball in the Texas Panhandle is equivalent to Michael Jordan retiring from basketball, or Babe Ruth retiring from baseball.
He’s led an unbelievable coaching tenure that lasted over four decades.
He retires with an immaculate 1,339 wins to only 133 losses during his career. Lombard is a 19-time UIL state basketball champion, earning six at Nazareth, followed by 13 at Canyon. What many don’t know, is the nationally-esteemed coach has won seven UIL cross country state titles, giving Lombard 26 total state championships, the most of any coach in Texas history.
Lombard, 67, has been inducted into six hall of fames has been inducted into six halls of fame, including the prestigious National Women's Basketball and National High School HOF.
“It’s been an incredible journey,” Lombard said. “I can’t believe that I’ve lived a storybook kind of life. It seems like a lot but I can still remember the first game l, and first practice at Nazareth. It’s been a blessing, and all the people I’ve come in contact with at Nazareth and Canyon were so supportive. I’ve been blessed to be around great people.”
Take away his brilliance when it comes to X’s and O’s, and what he’ll be remember for most is his character. Anyone that’s ever come in contact with Lombard walks away baffled by his humbleness.
“I’ve always been shocked at how humble he is,” said longtime assistant and close friend, Johnny Hampton, who spent 23 years sitting next to Lombard as his top assistant coach. “He’s very humble, especially for someone that won 19 state championships. He doesn’t have to be, but for someone that has that much success, you’d never know it. That speaks volumes of who he is.”
FILE— Canyon head girls basketball coach Joe Lombard chats with his son assistant coach, Tate, before a game earlier this season. [Cliff Lawson/ For Press Pass Sports]
Lombard’s last season this past winter on the bench may have been his favorite on yet. No, Canyon didn’t win the state championship, but he was able to enjoy ever game alongside his son, and Canyon assistant, Tate Lombard. Coaching with Tate — a two-time state champion at Wall, and most likely the heir apparent to follow in his father’s footsteps as the Lady Eagles coach — brought a new found energy for the veteran Lombard. It also brought the same joy to Tate.
“I love the way he interacted with his players,” Tate said about his father. “I love his love for the game, and his passion for the community. He’s definitely confident in his abilities but he doesn’t act like knows everything. He always continues to improve and just loves talking hoops. He’s humble, and has a genuine love for players and fellow coaches.“
Lombard retires as the second winningest coach in Texas history. The great Leta Andrew tallied a remarkable 1,416 wins in 52 years of coaching.
Coaches, former players and media pay their respect to coach Lombard
Babs Lombard, wife of Joe Lombard, former state champion basketball coach at Hale Center
“To be able to coach at two high schools is rare. To have the success is a blessing. God has a lot to do with. I think he’ll be remembered for being helpful. A junior high coach can call, and he never shy’s away. He’s willing to help anyone. It’s those kinds of things that his legacy will be remembered for.”
Tate Lombard, Lombard’s son, former Wall girls basketball coach, Canyon girls assistant coach
“I can go for a longtime on this. He and my mom are the reason I got into this. The way he led teams made me want to be a part of something special when I got older. I love the way he interacted with his players, I love his love for the game, and his passion for the community. He’s definitely confident in his abilities but he doesn’t act like knows everything. He always continues to improve and just loves talking hoops. He’s humble, and has a genuine love for players and fellow coaches.”
Johnny Hampton, Canyon assistant coach for 21 years.
“He’s the definition of girls basketball in the Texas Panhandle. He’s a great man, and he loves basketball like all coaches do. I think he’s always focused on being successful and always thinking how to get better. It’s just a deep passion for this game, and it’s never let up over 40 years. He’s very humble, especially for someone that won 19 state championships. But for someone that has that much success, he’s been very humble.”
Nicole (Hampton) Gerlich, Lubbock Christian All-American (2012-2016); Canyon Lady Eagle (2007-2011).
“It’s hard to put in words all he’s done for Canyon and the Texas Panhandle all together. He‘s always been positive and encouraging on and off the court, and he‘s a leader for his players, for the fans in the stands, and just a great man to look up to. He finds a way to teach so many types of players. He‘s a student of the game, and always found a way to make us better.”
Ramona (Heiman) Schulte, Nazareth Swiftette 1983-1986
“Joe Lombard is the coach every girl in high school wants as her coach. He pushes you to the limit and farther. I was a slacker and he saw it, and man did he stay on my case. I am grateful for that because he made me the player I was. You also never saw him get angry. Yes, he’d raise his voice a time or two but he just knew how to handle the situation. His strategy of fundamentals is basic and the key to be a great player and team. At the time I got so bored with his fundamentals but after you win a state championship you realize how important they were. Joe is the best coach out there and his records and teams prove it. I’m just so grateful for him and only wish him the best of luck.”
Jolee (Ayers) Luce, Texas Tech Lady Raider (2000-2004); Canyon Lady Eagle (1996-2000)
“Joe Lombard is a household name in the basketball world. His impact on high school basketball rivals any name you can produce. Anyone who wins 1,000 games before they have 100 losses is impressive, but his greatness is in the way he earned those wins. He invests early and reaps large returns later on. I was fortunate enough to live in Canyon and grow up in his program. Coach Lombard doesn’t get girls in high school and try to coach them to be a winning team; he grows them into winners from the time they set foot in their first camp. He was in the junior high athletic period every day making sure you could dribble with your eyes up and play defense with your butt down. He was reaching out to you at church or in the grocery store to see how your family was doing and make sure you were holding your grades. He built winners by focusing on the foundation, and that is often lost in the programs of today. You didn’t have to be the most athletic because you were going to be more fundamentally skilled and have the higher basketball IQ.
Brooke (Baughman) Walthall, Randall girls basketball coach; Canyon Lady Eagle (1999-2003)
“Coach Lombard has been a mentor to me in every part of life. From family to basketball to church. He has a great relationship with God and people. He is always wanting to get better, a true a student of the game. His passion is contagious. He loves the game, and I’m so thankful to have gotten to have learned from him.”
Kalee Carey-Carter, Randall assistant basketball coach, Canyon Lady Eagle (1999-2003)
“Coach Joe Lombard leaves a lasting legacy on the Texas panhandle. He is truly the greatest of all-time. I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to play basketball and learn from one of the most knowledgeable and winningest coaches in our the history of are sport. Hopefully those of us he coached that are now coaches will be able to leave a little bit of his legacy on the court in the future. Not only is Joe an amazing coach but he’s also taught generations of young women how to have strong faith, and how to be productive members of our community. Although the basketball was great, what I’m most thankful for is he helped me become a better person along the way.”
Jordan Vessels, UT Arlington assistant coach, Canyon Lady Eagle (2006-2010)
“I think he means to girls and women’s basketball. Pat Summit called him “Joe Champion” so that showed you how much he effected the game nation wide. He also teaches you about life. We have a relationship as a player coach, and now as coaches. He cares so much about his players. It’s never him or wins, but how will I get this group to succeed. He still learns the game. If there is a coaching clinic he’s there, if there is a tweak in the offense he wants to know. He always wants to grow. He’s very special and touched so many lives.”
Angel Hayden, Angelo State basketball player; Canyon Lady Eagle (2013-2017)
“Words can’t even describe how I feel about coach Lombard retiring. Coach Lombard is one incredible legend. The amount of state championships he has won is unbelievable. I was blessed enough to be coached by Lombard and win four state titles from 2014-2017. Coach Lombard has always been amazing, I love how he always supported every sport I did. Lombard always had my back, and I always had his. When it came to basketball we saw everything eye to eye, and would have the same thoughts about games. I guess that’s what happens being coached by a legend for so long. Coach Lombard and I have a very unique relationship, and I am blessed for every moment i got with him. He made me a great player, but made me a even better person. I can’t thank you enough coach Lombard. I’m sad that you are retiring but forever grateful for you. I know I never said this enough, but thank you for coaching me and making me the best I could be, you are a true legend.”
Leslie Broadhurst, Randall boys basketball coach
“I think he’s the greatest coach we’ve ever had up here in the Texas Panhandle. You can say he’s one of the greatest coaches in the country when you look at his record. His record speaks for itself. What I really admire is is how humble he is. In clinics he still sits in front row, and takes notes, he ask’s questions, and is always so involved. It’s refreshing to see a person as humble as he is with that much success. He’s helped me a lot and a he’s a mentor to me.”
Jeff Williams, Amarillo High girls basketball coach
“The level he got teams to play at had to make everyone better. It made everyone have a high standard, and if you weren’t working tail off you’d get embarrassed. Coach Lombard set a standard. You just hope you can do justice as a coach like he set. It’s unprecedented what he’s accomplished. I’m lucky to have him as a good friend.”
Rob Schmucker, Panhandle girls basketball coach
“Where do I start. The first thing that comes to mind for me is who he is off the court, and his willingness to help others, or his faith, or just who he is as a person. On the court, his accomplishments speak volumes to what he has brought to this sport and the legacy he is leaving. As a coach I know that I can not touch the things that he has accomplished, but I can strive to try to be the Christian impact to others that he has been to me personally but also to players and coaches he has been around.
I can only say that I am so thankful to know him on and off the court, and that I feel bless to know that he is my friend.”
A.J. Johnson, Palo Duro girls basketball coach
“We all aspire to be like Joe. He’s gracious, humble, calculated and successful. There have been a lot of great coaches to come out of the Texas Panhandle but Joe is simply the best. When I chose to come to the Texas Panhandle in 1995 it was because I wanted to compete with the best coaches in Texas. Joe has set the bar so high, It will be impossible to touch it. I wish him and his family nothing but happiness after everything they have given to us coaches here in West Texas.”
Eric Schilling, Nazareth girls basketball coach
“The impact that coach Lombard has had on the game of basketball, especially in our area, can’t be put into words. The Texas Panhandle is known for girls basketball and I believe it all comes back to coach Lombard. The success that he has had and the type of coach he is is what all coaches strive for. There will never be another coach that can match what he has accomplished in his 42 years of coaching. He did it with integrity, humility and a genuine love of the game and this was always evident in his style of coaching and the way his players played the game. He was a fundamental specialist and his teams exemplified that in all facets of the game. As much as I respected him as a coach, I respected him even more so as a person. A great guy that the coaching community will truly miss having on the sidelines.”
Lance Lahnert, former Amarillo Globe-News sports editor, Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame inductee, No. 182.
“I had the honor of covering Joe Lombard for all 38 years of my writing career at the Amarillo Globe-News. He went from coach to good friend which is rare in the journalism world and something I’m proud to say. His retirement is like baseball losing Babe Ruth, basketball losing Michael Jordan and the Dallas Cowboys losing Emmitt Smith. Joe is the coaching greatest of all-time in the Texas Panhandle who brought national attention to Nazareth and Canyon. As great as his record is at 1,245 wins over .500 he’s even a better man. I once coached Little Dribblers and asked him one day for a couple of inbounds plays. He was in the middle of a playoff run and spent a half hour with me making sure I understood everything. Who does that? So as great as his record is to me what I admire most about Joe is his humble ways and the countless young coaches he helped out along with preparing all those young ladies he coached for greatness on the court and the next steps in their life.”