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Hobson's 500 wins put him among nations best

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University women's basketball coach Tony Hobson's office has multiple plaques, photos and memorabilia from his 22-year collegiate coaching career. It highlights the three NAIA national championships he won at Hastings (Neb.) College, milestone victories and even a photo of U.S. Olympic wrestling gold medalist Rulon Gardner with family.

On Monday, Hobson collected another plaque when FHSU honored him for his 500th career victory before the Tigers' 100-34 home victory against NAIA University of St. Mary. Hobson is 501-166 for his career, including 7-1 with Fort Hays this season. He ranks in the top 10 in winning percentage among active NCAA Division II coaches with a four-year college record of 299-100.

"I have never been one to try to project," Hobson said. "It's not like I had a goal 25 years of, 'I want to win 500 games.' "

Hobson coached at Cloud County Community College from 1983-89, was the head boys' basketball coach at Superior (Neb.) High School from 1994-97, then coached the Barton County women's team from 1997-2000. After one year as the associate head coach at Hastings, Hobson took over at Hastings and coached until '08 before he came to FHSU.

"Every time I have changed a job, I have got a better job. It's not one of those things where I changed for the sake of changing. Whether it was a new challenge or a different level or whatever," Hobson said. "I have enjoyed every place that I have been."

Hobson remains the all-time leading scorer at Belleville High School and played at Barton and Hastings. After his time at Cloud, Hobson coached high school, taught at college and helped his dad farming. The Barton job came open late in the summer and Hobson didn't think he could pass it up.

"I never really got completely out of it," Hobson said. "That was a big decision to get back into the college. I had been in college for awhile, enjoyed that, but got out and got my masters degree and got married and then got back in at the high school level. Kind of had a nice little thing going."

One of Hobson's best friends, Ray Bechard, coached volleyball at the time. Bechard is now the volleyball coach at University of Kansas.

"He kind of convinced me to come down there," Hobson said. "Since then, it's been a pretty wild ride."

The Tigers have won 20 or more games the last two seasons and reached No. 10 nationally last season, the first ever appearance in the top-10 in the school's NCAA era.

"In sports, it's one of the few things today where there is still a winner and a loser and where you are able to compete," Hobson said. "I think that's an important thing to teach young kids and to teach college kids. 'Get ready for the real world, because there are winners and losers out there, just like there is every game.'"

Hobson is now 88-60 with the Tigers and is currently in the midst of the fifth-best three-year run by winning percentage in FHSU annals. The Tigers are again receiving votes nationally in the latest poll released Tuesday and gained seven votes in the poll.

"We might get beat, but we don't want to lose it," Hobson said. "That's always kind of our goal. I can take getting beat, but I can't take losing. If you play a good, solid game and are prepared going in, and everybody is into it, and you get beat, I can accept that. I can't accept not being ready to play and playing poorly and losing. I didn't expect (500 wins) at this point, but here I am."