A Career Dedicated To Impacting Lives, Evans Up For State HOF
Hardwood Legend Rob Evans Spent 50 Years Teaching Hoops, Life Lessons
DENTON - It would be an understatement to say a few people were seeking the services of Rob Evans in the late 1960s.
An All-American basketball player at Lubbock Christian and New Mexico State, Evans entertained contract offers from the ABA upstart Dallas Chaparrals, as well as the Colt 45s baseball team in Houston. The AFL's Oakland Raiders even sent a promising assistant coach named John Madden to Las Cruces, N.M., to convince Evans he could be a top-flight wide receiver.
Despite the urging of his mother, those professional contracts simply had no appeal to Evans. He had another focus that would change the course of his life, as well as hundreds of others over the next half century.
"It goes back to my high school coach Ralph Tasker," Evans said. "I saw the impact he had on young people. Not only his basketball players, but he taught five classes. The impact he had on all of those people, that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to impact young people's lives. That's why I got into coaching."
Evans immediately joined Lou Henson's coaching staff at New Mexico State and helped lead the Aggies to the Final Four in just his second season. Evans was a natural, and his zeal for the game caught the attention of others across the country.
In 1976, he joined Gerald Myers' staff at Texas Tech, where he would recruit a gritty point guard from Hobbs High School named Tony Benford. Together, they would lead the Red Raiders to a Southwest Conference title, and forever change the career path of Benford -the 1986 SWC Tournament MVP.
"Coach Evans has touched a lot of lives in his 40 or 50 years coaching," said Benford, who caught the coaching bug as well, and would later work for Evans at Arizona State. "He's been a tremendous representative of basketball in general, but the state of New Mexico especially. He's a legend."
Evans and another legend, Eddie Sutton, would team up with talented assistant Bill Self at Oklahoma State from 1990-92 before Evans finally got the call. He would become the first African-American head coach at the University of Mississippi.
`Ole Miss had only one NCAA Tournament berth to its name prior to Evans' arrival in 1992, and hadn't posted a winning record in SEC play in a decade. Evans led them to two NCAA Tournaments and the SEC West Division title in 1997 and 1998, and earned SEC and national coach of the year honors.
His success in Oxford, Miss., parlayed Evans into the head coaching job at powerhouse Arizona State in 1998. He led the Sun Devils to four postseason appearances in eight years at ASU, and sent numerous players to the NBA, including Ike Diogu and Eddie House.
While his time ran out at ASU in 2006, Evans had amassed 205 head coaching wins six postseason trips in 14 years as a head coach. Today, the accolades of a stellar career fill the walls of his office at North Texas, where he is the associate head coach and mentor to Benford, the head coach. He looks back at each artifact with the joy that he helped change the lives of hundreds of individuals.
"You use athletics to teach life lessons," Evans said. "Because you have to help them understand that at some point the ball is going to go flat."
Evans is no stranger to halls of fame. He's been inducted into the New Mexico State Athletics Hall of Fame, the Las Cruces Hall of Fame, and even his hometown Lea County Hall of Fame. New Mexico State even named Evans to their All-Time Basketball team.
Now Evans finds himself on the ballot of the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame, a fitting reward for a man who dedicated his life to changing young lives. And this is where you, the reader, come into play.
Online voting is a component for entry into the hall, so take a minute to visit NMSHOF.com to cast a vote for Evans.
"Any time your peers, people you grew up with or people you played with, honor you, it's a special feeling," said Evans.