The Canyon Lady Eagles are a powerhouse in the world of women's basketball and the man leading them is Coach Joe Lombard.
Lombard is legendary throughout the state, in 36 years of coaching he's lead his teams to take home 16 state titles. Not a bad record for a man who, early in life, didn't plan on being a coach.
He played ball for Wayland Baptist but after college, went in the sporting goods business. His wife, Babs, was the basketball coach and he loved helping her so much, he made a career change and earned his teaching certificate.
"I found out that money wasn't the thing for happiness, so me being in athletics and especially basketball was what fulfilled me and made me happy," Lombard said. "I'm glad she let me change, i wouldn't have done it without her blessing."
In 1978, the week before school began, he got the call. "My first job was in Nazareth and coached over there for 7 years and it was paradise, loved it. We loved the people. It was like a calling there and Naz had a good program," he said.
His first season the Nazareth Swiftettes earned him his first state title, and Bab's Hale Center team took state that year as well. A few years later Lombard took the job at Canyon.
"It was a great foundation for me for what has become Canyon. I always considered Canyon as a big Nazareth. We try to do things similar to what we did years ago with modern day updating," he said.
Lombard has a knack for focusing on the fundamentals, utilizing his player's strengths, taking time with each of them and combining those strengths into a winning team. He's led the Lady Eagles to numerous victories. In fact, Coach Joe won 1,000 games before he lost 100. Plus, his coaching talent is being passed on. His daughter, Lindy, took her Fort Worth team into the playoffs and just hours before his state title in March, his son, Tate, took home his first state championship with his Wall team.
"Top 10 in your life you just hope your kids have some kind of success and happiness and so we were pretty proud, but Tate's worked hard and he deserves that kind of stuff because he has a good feel of the game," Lombard said.
Lombard's humble in talking about his many accolades, he is a legend in high school basketball, but don't try giving him any credit, he's not keeping score.
"There were good coaches, Bob Schneider, Dean Weese, really good coaches back from before my time and I learned from those guys. You have that good coaching mixed in with communities that are going to give them a chance in the athletic period and have a tough schedule, so I was fortunate Canyon was already setup before I got here."
Coach Joe jokes, in his decades of coaching girls basketball, he's been around a lot of women.
"With them a lot, in fact, i'm around women so much (laughs), I like to have some men to be around with. I've got a couple high school coaches that I can chum around and play golf with, but I've always enjoyed coaching the women. I have coached men a couple different years, but the girls want to be coached they want to have discipline, they want me to help them with their game, they want to learn, they want to buy into things so I really like being a part of that. It's been a good fit."
And a good fit for Canyon, too. With such an impressive record, job opportunities outside the city have presented themselves.
"I have had some college opportunities and had some other high school opportunities, but hopefully I'm getting wiser as I get older and understand that the money thing is not as important as maybe what i thought it would be earlier in life. So as long as we have enough food on the table, I'm happy," Lombard said. "Babs and I love living in Canyon, we love the people, we love our school, people we work with everyday, the kids, the families, it's just been awesome, so it's hard to leave when you're happy."
Happy coaching, and teaching his players more than just the game.
"I don't want it just to be about wins and losses and obviously we are proud of a lot of things we've accomplished, but I'd rather be remembered as a good person. A person who did what was best for the kids, tried to help these kids become people who are going to be productive in the community. We are going to have discipline in our program and they're going to be dedicated to play in our program, but qualities they will carry with them the rest of their lifetime. And then, I hope they see me as that guy who cares about others more than himself. Winning is great and it's kind of how you play the game that's important to me and we want to do things the right way. People are going to say whatever they want to say. I don't want to be defined by winning 1,000 games, i want to be defined by the type of man I am and my Christianity, my walk with God, that type of thing is important to me."
Watch Pronews 7 all week long to learn more about the city and people of Canyon in the special series, "Our Town: Welcome to Canyon."