Jeff Walk was sitting on a beach watching the Three Rivers College women’s basketball team at the NJCAA National Tournament earlier this week.
“We’ve been watching it every day,” Walk said, but not always on the beach.
“The last couple of days have been kind of windy,” he added.
The former Raiders coach, who retired at the end of last season following 12 years at the school and 32 years coaching basketball, had planned a vacation for this week awhile back thinking that fans were not going to be allowed to attend games in Lubbock, Texas.
As the Raiders advanced and reached the final four for the first time in the program’s history, Walk looked into a variation to the vacation with a visit to Texas.
“Actually, it’s not hard,” Walk said of not being able to see the games in person.
Walk has been keeping in touch with Raiders coach Alex Wiggs.
“I still get my basketball fix,” said Walk.
Vacation plans have been made this week based on when the Raiders were playing.
“I am just super tickled for Alex and the girls,” Walk said. “It does my heart good that he’s having success and they’re winning.”
“I just like watching the game,” Walk said prior to Friday’s tipoff. “It’s easier on me when it’s over, I can go on and do other stuff.”
The Raiders lost their first game of the season Friday in the national semifinal, 71-63 to Northwest Florida State.
It was the best showing at the national tournament since the 2004 Raiders placed fifth.
Walk, who was 213-150 at Three Rivers, took a team to the national tournament in 2019.
“It’s heartbreaking (to lose),” Walk said. “But to get the chance to do that kind of stuff is still great for the kids and great for the program here at the college.”
The women’s basketball program started in 1982 when Three Rivers built the Bess Activity Center. That first team finished 2-20 under coach Kay Asher, who led the program for three seasons.
Dave Jarvis coached the team two years, including the first winning season in 1986. Following a three-year tenure of Donna Fielder, Jack Childress took over the program for the 1989-90 season.
The Raiders were 3-16 that first season under Childress, who ended up with a 373-191 record. Five years later they earned the program’s first national tournament appearance in 1995, finishing 28-6.
Walk took over as coach in 2009 after 20 years coaching at Twin Rivers High School. During his 32 years of coaching he won a total of 569 games in all.
When he hired Wiggs as an assistant coach, Walk said he mapped out his retirement ahead of time.
“Coach Walk was a big part of my career here. He took a chance on a 28-year-old coming in as a young assistant,” Wiggs told Scott Borkgren of the Daily American Republic.
“He saw a lot of potential in me and walked me through the process and steps of him retiring and me taking over the program.”
That could have been a big hurdle for these Raiders.
And there were a lot of other things that could have tripped up the Raiders during an unprecedented season for college basketball that ended in April.
But this team won 24 straight and reached the final four after opening the tournament with a comeback for the ages. Three Rivers forced three turnovers and scored 11 points in the final minute to rally from a seven-point deficit.
“To win a game like that in a win-or-go-home situation, is cloud nine,” Walk said. “You live on that for two or three games. It gives the kids that much more confidence that you’re never out of it. And they proved it right there.
“Just a tremendous effort by the kids.”
The Raiders had a banner year and while Walk’s name might not appear in the record book with this season, he certainly laid the foundation.
Walk, however, isn’t looking for credit or a championship ring.
“No,” he said. “Maybe a T-shirt.”