Ask Matt Garvey about memories of playing for Lonnie Lollar and he’ll understandably pause to reflect on his years as a Panther.
It wasn’t until moving on to Friends, however, that he got an even better picture of what that meant for his career.
Finishing up a defensive drill in his first two years playing for the Falcons, coaches came up to the Derby graduate and uttered words that he’ll never forget.
“I can tell you played for Lonnie Lollar.”
It is those sentiments and more that sparks pride in the eyes of Garvey and the players who donned Derby green under Lollar from 1996 to 2004.
It rang true for his players through the next 11 years at Bishop Carroll, three years at Halstead and still stands as he prepares for his next stop at Belle Plaine.
Through his eight-year stint with the Panthers, Derby finished 108-64. It was a homecoming for the longtime coach, getting to coach his alma mater after graduating in 1978.
After taking over for Bishop Carroll in 2004, Lollar’s résumé grew quickly with the Class 5A power. He tallied a 128-123 record, taking it to six state tournaments. The program finished second and third in two of its trips to state.
When it came time to move his coaching career to Halstead, it was a homecoming of sorts for Lollar and his family. It is his wife Patty’s hometown and it was where they got married.
Halstead finished 12-11 in his first year at the 3A school, but in year two, the program won its second state title and gave Lollar the first of his career.
“When we got to that state tournament it was “Hoosiers” x 3,” Lollar said. “It was unbelievable … that 3A tournament was incredible and I still get tingly thinking about it.”
It was also meaningful for his former players after seeing him come close in multiple state trips.
“It was a ‘thank God’ moment,” Garvey said. “He puts so much hard work into his coaching and a lot of people probably don’t understand how much time goes into the [profession]. For him to finally get that title, I was relieved for him.”
From his childhood days of watching basketball at Great Bend High School, Lollar found an undeniable passion for the game and athletics in general.
“One of the reasons I love basketball is because to me it’s the ultimate team game,” he said. “Every once in a while you have one person that can maybe tip the scale of giving a team an advantage, but there has to be a buy-in and a belief [from your players].”
Derby graduate Tommy Brumbelow played under Lollar in summer basketball before later joining his staff at Bishop Carroll for five years.
The now Wichita West coach said Lollar brought an infectious personality and drive that influences him now as he leads his own program.
“At the end of the day, the guy is having a crapload of fun,” Brumbelow said. “His enthusiasm is unmatched.”
Having coached as few as 12-15 players on a roster to that of a Class 5A or 6A school, the longtime coach has seen what different classifications can bring to the table.
Regardless of the side taken in the conversation, Lollar found positives in both.
“There are things that make the larger classifications fun, but also stressful to be in,” he said. “You flip it around and it’s the same way … I feel very blessed and thankful because I never saw myself looking at just a large or a small school. I’m blessed to have been able to do both.”
Now as he prepares for his new chapter at Belle Plaine, Lollar is bringing more of his Derby foundation with him. Chip Steven, who is the Panthers’ all-time leading scorer, will be on the Dragons’ staff alongside Lollar.
Current Derby coach Brett Flory has ties with Lollar that date back to his time leading Valley Center basketball. The two remain close as Flory leads Lollar’s hometown program and the Panthers’ coach praised him for the foundation that he said is still alive today.
“He has been a great ally and friend for me since I came to Derby,” Flory said. “He wants to see our program succeed and always has. A lot of my early success here I credit to him because [those players] grew up watching his teams and got them hooked on basketball.”