The high school sports community in San Juan County is once again reaching out to help one of their own.
Kirtland Central girls’ basketball head coach Kevin Holman is undergoing his fourth fight against thyroid cancer. He is proceeding with radiation treatments, but will continue to coach the defending 4A state champion Lady Broncos this season before undergoing surgery.
“The first part of December, I found out the two tumors were back,” Holman said. “I will be there every game. I won’t do anything as far as surgery until after the season — unless my doctors tell me I absolutely have to. I told the doctors I can’t do surgery until the season is over.”
Holman has had four tumors removed from his neck in the last 10 or 11 years, he said.
“Any time the doctor tells you the cancer is back, it shocks you at first with the initial hit,” Holman said. “I have beat it the other times, and I am pretty sure I like my chances again of getting by it and that I can continue to stay healthy.”
Holman broke the news to the Lady Broncos on Monday.
“I knew I was taking a radiation pill Tuesday and that I would have to miss a practice. I am pretty radioactive here for the next few days, so there is no school or practice for me,” Holman said. “It is a tough thing to miss practice but, with the restrictions, I can’t be too close to the kids.
“Coaching is the easiest part of this process. It takes your mind off of it. I am worried about the next game and getting the girls prepared. It is great medicine to help take your mind off the problems. Coaching helps you get up each day.”
To assist with his fight, local high schools are organizing a fundraiser night called “District One for One of Our Own.”
The three games will be held in gyms Holman has formerly been or currently is a head coach for the past 15 years with Bloomfield visiting Shiprock, Farmington hosting a rivalry game with Piedra Vista, and Aztec making a trip to Kirtland Central.
Admission for the games will be $1 more than the usual ticket price for a regular season game, with the extra dollar going to The Coach Holman Fund at Four Corners Community Bank.
The night was organized by Rick Hoerner, a former coach and current teacher at Piedra Vista.
“I just felt like something had to be done. The guy is obviously struggling with the season and getting treatment taken care of. I knew he needed some help,” Hoerner said. “He has plenty of friends and people who care about him in this community.”
The gesture from the schools is a meaningful one for Holman.
“I have known Hoerner a long time. He took it upon himself to call all of the athletic directors. I have known the athletic directors and coaches in this area a long time after coaching at three different schools, and it is a very special thing these guys are doing,” Holman said.
At last Saturday’s Kirtland Central vs. St. Pius X game, Shiprock girls’ head coach Larenson Henderson, who was Holman’s assistant coach at Kirtland Central the previous two years, made a donation of his own.
Henderson was watching the game from the stands. At halftime, he had the winning program for the opportunity to shoot a half-court shot for $500.
The shot was perfect.
After receiving the $500, Henderson turned around and handed it to Holman.
“Holman means a lot to my family. God gave us many blessings, and his friendship to us is one of them,” Henderson said. “I never win anything like that. When they called my number to take the shot, my face dropped. For me, there was a purpose of why it happened to me. Holman needed it more. It was a great shot, nothing but net. I was about a foot behind the half court line and when I let it go everything felt right. I just knew it was going in. It was an awesome experience.”
Hoerner will also be selling Nike gear at every Piedra Vista game and any other game he can make it to the rest of the year in an effort to raise more money.
“Nike donated a lot of stuff. Any Nike gear we sell at any of the games we can after Feb. 7 will go to help,” Hoerner said.
Since starting The Coach Holman Fund, Hoerner has also received calls from Las Cruces and Albuquerque coaches associations who have donated.
“I hope this is inspirational. The basketball spirit is special,” Henderson said. “So many times you read the newspaper and there is hardly ever anything good happening sometimes. This is great to see collaboration and caring for someone. It is something a lot of the kids need to learn by. I hope my kids understand that it is about helping another — giving and not expecting anything in return.”
Holman is grateful for that support.
“I want to thank all of the schools for what they are doing,” he said. “My bosses at Kirtland Central, Shawna Becenti our principal and Mike Walker our athletic director, have been nothing but supportive since they found out. I want to thank the whole community and everyone who is helping me beat this. I have beat this the three other times I have been diagnosed with it, so I am confident we will again.”