Hall of fame name now inked on court
Coach Joe Lombard set to begin 40th season
September 20, 2017
Joe Lombard, Canyon Lady Eagles basketball coach, is set to start his 40th year of coaching on a court that now bears his signature.
In May 2017, the school board decided to name the Canyon High School basketball court after Lombard. His overall record is an unprecedented 1,292-120 and includes 19 state championship titles. He also achieved 1,000 wins before having 100 losses, a feat unheard of in high school basketball. With four consecutive state titles under his belt, he said this upcoming season is just as special as the rest.
“The older I’ve gotten, the more I appreciate that it’s not just about the wins and losses, but it’s about the big picture of what we can do to help students,” Lombard said. “Just about every day in practice we talk about the team, and we talk about things each player can do to help the team be better. I am just honored to be a part of the team, and I want to help guide and direct the kids.”
Coach Lombard took the head coaching job in Nazareth in the fall of 1978 while his wife, Babs Lombard, was the head coach in Hale Center. Soon after, they found themselves coaching against each other in a tournament that would set the tone for their state-winning seasons. They became the first husband/wife duo to both win a state title in the same year.
“We ended up playing each other, and it was real low scoring,” Babs said. “Both teams were nervous, and it ended up being 33-32. He beat me by one point, and he got ahead and stalled the ball the last two minutes. That was our only time to ever play each other.”
Coach Joe Lombard drove to his home in Hale Center after the victory against his wife, and there was a dog house in his front yard with a sign that said “Happy Sleeping Joe.” The president of the Hale Center school board put the sign in the front yard to be funny, and Coach Lombard laughed about the whole experience.
“I went up to get into the house, and Babs had locked me out,” Coach Lombard said. “It was pretty cute and funny. We actually drove to the state tournament that year, and at that particular time neither one of us had an assistant coach. She drove her school bus, and I drove my school bus, and we just followed each other all the way down to Austin.”
New district athletic director Steve Williams said he knew there had been a movement for quite some time to honor Joe Lombard for his phenomenal contribution to Canyon ISD.
“Joe Lombard is the face of integrity, the face of class and the face of if you do things right, good things are going to happen,” Williams said. “Canyon High does so many things very well, and I think Joe’s influence has had a lot to do with that. Regardless of what you do, as long as you do it right with integrity, class and hard work, you’re going to succeed. I think Joe Lombard is the model for that.”
Current Texas Tech girls basketball player Angel Hayden was a four-time state champion, three-time state MVP, and a three-time all-state player for Lombard at Canyon High School. She said being a player for Coach Lombard has made her not only a stronger basketball player, but a better person as well.
“It’s pretty amazing, because he’s like a parent watching over you, and he’s not just your coach,” Hayden said. “Having him build a relationship with you outside of basketball with God is amazing, and having him as a coach that always has your back and does what is best for you is pretty cool as well. Playing with him as your coach helps you in so many ways and teaches you to become a better person.”
Babs said other teams may be physically or athletically better, but there won’t be a team that is more prepared.
“I think that is the key to his success,” Babs said. “People don’t realize how much time he spends studying the game. His teams are prepared, and they’re fundamentally sound. There are napkins all over the house with plays written on them because that is just what he does.”
The Lady Eagles are returning two starters, seniors Channing Cunyus and Blaire Winings. Winings, a three-time state champion, said Lombard is such a successful coach because he focuses on the little things, like fundamentals, and takes it one game at a time.
“Coach Lombard has taught me to always work hard and to never give up whether I’m on the court or not,” Winings said. “He teaches us responsibility and how to be leaders. More importantly, he encourages us to have good character and to give all the glory to God in every situation.”
Coach Lombard goes to the junior high daily to work with the seventh and eighth graders. The team motto this year is “together as one,” and every player plays a part to fulfill it.
“That’s the key to our success for long term and year in and year out success,” Lombard said about the junior high players. “We get them ready to play, teach them and keep the continuity there throughout the program.”
Lombard’s daughter Lindy is an assistant coach at Argyle, Texas and won state in 1996 while playing for her father at Canyon. His son, Tate, is the head girls basketball coach at Wall, Texas. Tate and Joe Lombard both won state titles in 2014 and 2016, becoming the first father/son duo to win state titles in the same year.
“I have a great family,” Lombard said. “The family is very supportive, and they want me to coach as long as I feel like I need to go.”
While some coaches may be considering retirement at this point in their careers, Lombard will continue his career as he is inducted into his sixth hall of fame this month.
“I want to retire just when I know it’s time to retire,” Lombard said. “I haven’t felt that yet. I feel like I’m doing work for God. Each day I come to school is my favorite day of the week, and I’m grateful I get to coach. It’s not for everybody because there are a lot of ups and downs in coaching, but I’m grateful that there have been more ups than downs for sure. I’m grateful that I have a job that’s not even a job–it’s a passion.”