Reminiscing on the all-time wins record: Bloomington South’s J.R. Holmes got the life, but not the riches, he expected, en route to an achievement he never dreamed of
It may not have been the riches he expected, but Bloomington South boys basketball coach J.R. Holmes has an IHSAA-record 810 victories (and counting) and 48 years of memories to put away in his vault.
Holmes, 71 years old, started his career in 1970 at Tunnelton where he won 30 games in two seasons. He spent the next 10 years at Mitchell winning 113 games, and has been at Bloomington South since 1982, serving as coach and athletic director, winning 19 sectionals, and two state titles.
Forty-eight years after starting his coaching career, Holmes said breaking such a record was not ever on his radar.
“I was going to coach for five years and then use my math degree to get in some kind of business and get rich,” Holmes said. “It did not work out that way. Almost 50 years later, I’m still coaching but the rich thing did not work out.”
Holmes’ career includes several big victories, none bigger than those which brought Bloomington South two Class 4A state championships in 2009 and 2011.
During his career, Holmes was able to coach his son, Jonathan, who went on to play for North Carolina and is now an assistant coach for William & Mary College. Holmes reminisced about that time and how this honor will be shared with his family.
“Winning that first sectional,” Holmes listed as a top memory. “Then my son hit a last-second shot to win the sectional against Bedford North Lawrence later. And the two state championships.
“It is a great honor. One not achieved by myself. It is something my children will remember me by — that I at least had the record for a while.”
The previous record was set 17 years ago by Jack Butcher with 806 victories. The 86-year-old Butcher coached at Loogootee for 55 years before retiring in 2002. Holmes and Butcher spoke before the record-breaking game, reminiscing on the times they coached against each other when Holmes was at Mitchell.
“I was just trying to get the game set-up and make sure that Mr. Butcher was taken care of,” Holmes said.
“Then my daughter surprised me by attending the game from New Mexico. So I did not have a whole lot of time to think about it.
“I remember I was very happy it was going to take place at a home game and be done before the tournament started.”
His daughter, Meredith, surprised him one day after sending him a FaceTime, telling him she wasn’t going make it.
Also making the trip were several players from Holmes first team at Tunnelton in 1970-71.
Those who stayed for the 63-24 win over Northview, stuck around as congratulatory messages were played in a video presentation from the likes Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens, Purdue coach Matt Painter, Indiana coach Archie Miller, Steve Alford and more.
So who and what influenced Holmes to get into coaching 48 years ago?
“My high school coach, Russ Blackburn. He was one of the main reasons I got into coaching,” Holmes said. “He was a young coach with [a] a pretty wife; [b] had the keys to the gym and the basketballs; and [c] had the summers off. A great life, I thought.
“I got the pretty wife. I got the keys, a master key. But the summers off did not work out too good.”
While it’s unclear how many more wins Holmes will have before retiring, he simply stated what will motivate him going forward: “To see if I can get my team to be better than the opponent.”
IHSAA COACHING WINS LIST
1. J.R. Holmes* — 810 (48 years)
2. Jack Butcher — 806 (45 years)
3. Jack Keefer* — 795 (46 years)
4. Bill Patrick — 765 (48 years)
5. Pat Rady — 761 (51 years)
* — active