EL PASO, Texas - History was made in West Texas Friday night as El Paso's Montwood High School baskeball coach Tony Harper walked off the court with the 900th victory of his career. The milestone win came after the Rams held off a late comeback attempt by host Eastwood in a 38-28 victory.
"It means more that we played better than we did in our last district game," said Harper, who was referring to a double-digit loss to El Paso's #1 team Coronado High on Tuesday, "Seriously, the kids played hard, and they've been under a lot of pressure, too. It's a milestone, and it's something that comes along if you stay in it long enough."
Currently, Tony Harper has more victories than any other active coach in Texas, and he ranks fourth in the nation, according to the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
Harper, who's been the only varsity boys basketball coach at Montwood High School, said, when he started his career, he would have never envisioned himself winning 900 games, "Never! I didn't even think about that. I just wanted to be a basketball coach. Thank goodness I got a good upbringing and people in school that taught me how to do it right so when I was a classroom teaching I also tried to do the right things."
Only three active coaches on the national scene are ahead of Harper: Joel Hawkins of Southern Lab, Louisiana (1089), Ronald Bradley of Covington, Georgia (1011) and the legendary coach Bob Hurley of St. Anthony's of Jersey City, New Jersey (957).
When KVIA ABC-7 Sports Director Paul Cicala asked him if he'd be around to coach a few more years to make it to 1,000 career victories, Harper replied with a laugh,"You've got to be kidding me. I say it (retirement) all the time. Sometimes it's after practice. Sometimes it's the next day, and sometimes it's like 'I'm having fun. Let's keep doing this.'
Harper continued, "I just like to live it one game at a time."
In 2011, Coach Harper was awarded the prestigious Texas State Coach of the Year for Boys' Basketball from the University Interscholastic League.
After 42 years as a head coach, it's still not clear if Coach Harper will continue after this season. However, if you judge by the energy and emotion he's shown on the bench the entire 2012-2013 season, Harper seems as youthful as a man in his 30's. In other words, --who knows? Coach Tony Harper may stick around a few more seasons to not only flirt with the milestone of 1,000 career wins .... but, to continue making a difference as a positive role model for countless El Paso-area youngsters.