Legendary Tombstone basketball coach reflects back on his career

Principal David Thursby, right, hands Steve Lane a plaque, recognizing him for his 11 years of coaching at Tombstone High School at his final game at Tombstone March 1.

TOMBSTONE — Tombstone High School boys basketball coach Steve Lane may not have realized the direction his life would take when he was a high school athlete but the path was clear to his own high school coach.

“My high school coach, Coach Bill Jackson, told me that one day I’d be a coach,” Lane said. “Coach Jackson was a great coach. He was a big man, over 6-foot-7. He was an honest, good Christian man. For me, Coach Jackson was one notch below my father. He pushed us hard but also knew that we needed to have fun.”

Coaching was his life, but Lane is set on a new direction — he retired earlier this month.

Lane started playing sports as a student at Alvarado High School in Texas. Prior to moving to Alvarado, with his father being in the military, Steve and his family had traveled to many parts of the world. Now with their family living in Texas, he would be able to compete in athletics.

“Coach Jackson talked to my dad about my brothers and me going out for sports,” Lane said. “He said we might even have the chance to get college athletic scholarships. We were out for sports the next day.”

Lane went on to be a four-sport high school athlete, competing in football, basketball, tennis and track and field.

His high school coach was right. Lane earned a basketball scholarship to Texas Wesleyan in Fort Worth where he also earned his bachelor’s degree in political science.

“The day I graduated from college in 1971 was the same day that I was drafted,” he said. “I went from getting my diploma to signing up for the Army.”

Lane would spend 15 years in the Army as a Ranger, in the special forces and airborne. He would retire from the Army as a captain.

“When I first went into the Army, they learned that I had played college basketball so they always had me as a player/coach for our military basketball teams,” Lane said. “It seemed like anywhere I went in the military, they would ask me to be the coach because I knew the game.”

After retiring from the military, Lane went into contracting. Soon, however, his passion for coaching, which has always been a big part of his life, reappeared when a friend from Arizona told him about a coaching position at Cochise College. He applied, was hired and became the assistant men’s basketball coach in 1988. Later he would take over the women’s basketball program as the head coach, a position he would hold for 15 years. He also taught western civilization and ancient history at Cochise.

“When Coach Lane retired from coaching at Cochise College, I asked him if he would be willing to help coach basketball at Tombstone,” said David Thursby, who was then Tombstone’s athletic director and now is the school’s principal. “He is first and foremost a role model for his students and athletes. He is an incredible example in the lessons he teaches them; he is a man of integrity.”

Tombstone athletic director Brian Miller sees the impact that Lane has had on his athletes and his students.

“Coach Lane is an outstanding person, a tremendous role model for students and coaches,” he said. “He teaches his boys basketball players the game of basketball, but more importantly he teaches them how to be good men. I can’t say how much we appreciate his leadership at Tombstone. He will be greatly missed but never forgotten.”

Lane has been coaching basketball and substituting at Tombstone High School for nearly 11 years.

“I love Tombstone High School,” he said. “They are good people. Many of the teachers and school personnel work year-round for Tombstone High even when they are not in school.”

Looking back on the years he has coached, Lane recognizes there are many qualities that lead to athletic success — qualities he has shared with his athletes through daily practices, games, and team discussions.

“Sports can definitely teach you a lot of things,” he said. “You need to have perseverance, always do your best and love the game. My dad would always tell me ‘you can go out for anything but you can’t quit.’ Being a part of a team is a big responsibility.”

With his retirement from coaching, Lane will be spending more time with his family — his wife Susie, their son, John Michael, their daughter, Michelle, and their three grandchildren.

“I’ll be taking care of my family and my home — I’ll definitely be a homebody,” he said. “I’ll have more time to play with my grandkids! I’ll substitute at Tombstone when they need me. I’d like to help more in our community. Now that I’m retired, I’m just taking everything one day at a time.”

The future holds many new experiences for Lane and his family. One thing is certain, coaching is definitely his calling and it may not be retired for long.

“I may even start coaching again when my grandkids start playing sports,” he said.