File Ron Holmes posed in his South Side High School classroom for a 1995 profile by the The Journal Gazette's Dell Ford. Holmes became a teacher after 26 years in the Marine Corps, where he served three 13-month tours in Vietnam and earned a Purple Heart medal and a Presidential Unit Citation for the Khe Sanh operation.
Sunday, December 09, 2018 1:00 am
A fundamentally good man
Ron Holmes' impact on Fort Wayne youth extended far beyond the basketball court
Narrowing down the impact of Ron Holmes to just a few words is difficult for the people who knew him best.
Teacher, scholar, family man, coach, friend, loyal Marine and impeccable game day dresser – those are just a few ways that people have spent the week remembering the longtime Concordia Lutheran High School assistant coach. And those memories have come from hundreds, maybe thousands, far and wide.
“I had no idea,” son Terry Holmes said in a humbled tone. “I know my dad impacted a lot of people, but I had no clue the magnitude of people.”
Holmes died Tuesday at the age of 81.
While remembered greatly for his more than 30 years on the bench of Concordia Lutheran boys basketball, Holmes was a man of the Marine Corps first and foremost. He spent 26 years in the service, according to his son Terry, playing on and then coaching a Marine Corps basketball team in the 1970s and '80s and perhaps unknowingly building the foundation of his future. He also spent three tours in Vietnam.
After his time in the Marines passed by, Holmes went to school, getting his bachelor's degree at IPFW before obtaining a masters and becoming a teacher at South Side High School. In 1982, he joined Glenn Parrish's coaching staff at Concordia.
In 1996, Holmes slid down the bench and became the interim head coach of the Cadets after Parrish suffered a stroke. His tenure did not last long; his team lost in sectional play to Bishop Dwenger that year to end his time in charge of the Cadets. He was not able to apply to be the head coach at the time because he was not a teacher at Concordia. But his loyalty to the program never wavered. He stayed on as an assistant under new coach Tim Reinking and did the same again in 2007 when Josh Eggold took over the program.
“He was great for me because he was always on board for trying to understand the new ideas that I had with the culture that had already existed,” Eggold said. “We would meet together every Tuesday night for years and just talk basketball. I always felt like he was moving forward, ready to take on the next challenge. For a guy who knew more basketball than I did to kind of take a backseat and listen to new ideas, what a humble guy he was to go through the processes and still inject what he believed was the right way to do things.”
During his time at Concordia, Holmes left a lot of positive memories as part of quality programs, including sectional titles in 1989, 2000, 2006 and a title in 2013 when Concordia made it all the way to the state finals. He is certainly remembered by his colleagues as more than just a basketball coach.
“At Concordia, we had our coaches that were good with X's and O's, and we had our coaches that were good on the administrative side, but he was always good at teaching morality and ethics through basketball, and that really impressed me as a young coach,” said Anthony Brewer, who played at North Side through 1998 and later coached with Holmes on the Cadet staff.
Holmes left Concordia in 2014 and retired from South Side in 2015.
As his son will tell you, Holmes' desire to give back to the youth of Fort Wayne never ended at South Side or Concordia. He started working with the city's Parks and Recreation Department in 1982. In 1985, he helped launch an IHSAA-sanctioned summer league. For years, the summer league acted as an educational opportunity, but in 2002 the Indiana High School Athletic Association allowed full varsity teams to compete. Holmes, acting as the director, had built a staff of 35 by 2006.
Every fall for many years, Holmes would take a group of third- to eighth-grade students who would be basketball players for his own kind of minicamp through Parks and Rec. He would spend four or five weeks drilling in fundamentals of basketball, a throwback to when he started coaching.
Fundamentals were the root of Holmes' on-court style.
“And I was a victim of that,” his son Terry said with a laugh while recounting times his dad would make him stop shooting jump shots in practice in order to drill on more basic techniques.
“He would say 'you have to master the fundamentals before you can really start to create.' The fundamentals were always the foundation of everything,” Brewer said.
Brewer echoed the sentiments of Eggold and Terry Holmes when talking about Ron Holmes' impact outside of sports programs. The coach brought an old-school appeal in modern times. But even in the '80s, he was using his rapport with young people through sport to educate about life.
“I don't think any student, even the ones he was hard on, had anything bad to say about him,” Terry said.
He was, according to many, a total advocate for kids.
“Whenever kids had problems, coach Holmes' line was always: 'That is why we are here.' He did not dismiss kids because of what had gone on in the past, he always just saw potential in people and thought about mentoring and nurturing kids,” Eggold said.
Dan Vance is a freelance sportswriter for The Journal Gazette.