RIO HONDO — Tonight when the Rio Hondo Bobcats step onto the hardwood to host the Zapata Hawks, they will do so knowing that just one win separates head coach JR Guzman and his 600th career victory.
During his nearly 30-year career, Guzman has won five area championships, 10 bi-district titles and nine district crowns while making 15 playoff appearances.
But getting to No. 600 is a milestone he selflessly deflects onto everyone that has helped him along the way.
“When I first started to coach, I never thought that I would be around this long. But when you love what you do it motivates you,” said Guzman. “I have known many great coaches and teachers over the years that I have admired and deeply respected for their accomplishments.
“I am not bigger than the team. Without my players, without my coaches, the fans, the parents and relatives, I’d be nothing. It will never be about me, it’s always about what is best for the team. It takes a total-team effort to run a good program.”
Guzman’s basketball journey began at Donna High where he was an assistant coach for four years before taking his first head coaching job at Brownsville Pace.
After 13 years at Pace, the need for a new challenge lured him to take an assistant coaching role at Corpus Christi Miller, where he was at for three years.
But in 1998, Guzman decided it was finally time to give back to the community where it all began and returned to his home town as the Bobcats’ head coach.
And he started by implementing his “team-comes-first” philosophy, which is a motto that stresses unity and teamwork.
“We play team ball here,” said Guzman. “We play team offense and team defense flat across. From first string to last string and to no string, it is always about what’s best for the team. Without the team I’m nothing. I’m just along for the ride.”
While Guzman played and learned from some notable coaches like Richard Flores and Roy Garcia, his biggest influence as a person was his mother, who sadly passed away three weeks ago at 93.
Tonight, when Guzman leads his Bobcats onto the court, he will do so knowing he has served his time learning his craft from some of the best in game and, maybe more importantly, will do so knowing that his “team-comes-first” philosophy at Rio Hondo is still going strong 19 years later.