DENVER — A 38-year basketball tradition at Regis (Colo.) will be changing at the end of the 2014-2015 season when legendary coach Lonnie Porter retires from the game on the court.
“I’m honored and humbled to have spent over half my life coaching at Regis,” Porter said. “As I look back, I remember most fondly the relationships I’ve formed with so many quality people.
The 2014-15 season will be Porter’s 38th as head basketball coach at Regis, a tenure unsurpassed in length by any college men’s basketball coach in Colorado history. With a career record of 533-482, Porter, a five-time conference coach of the year, has also amassed more victories than any other men’s hoops coach in state history. His win total ranks 10th among all active NCAA Division II men’s coaches and 31st all time.
While those figures are impressive, Porter is most proud of the 132 students who graduated during his tenure and reflect his true passion — nurturing the academic and personal success of his players.
“In 1977, Regis gave a young man the opportunity to build a program. The university continues to give me opportunities 38 years later,” Porter said. “I’m looking forward to using my experiences to continue supporting student access to Regis and students’ lifelong success through my expanding role as an ambassador for Regis and with the Porter-Billups Leadership Academy. With PBLA I can continue coaching life’s lessons and skills to mold and raise young people, giving me the best of both worlds, but without that last-second shot and in a much more personal arena.”
Porter’s career at Regis will continue as he transitions to an ambassador role with the university, focusing his efforts on leading the Porter-Billups Leadership Academy full time with Colorado basketball legend Chauncey Billups. The PLBA is a three-week academic program held each summer on Regis’ main campus. It provides at-risk youth (ages 8 to 18) from the Denver area the skills to become leaders, combat negative peer pressure, graduate from high school and attend college. Mentors provide students with training in leadership development, teamwork, conflict resolution, communication skills and technology. The academy, which is free to all participants, provides full scholarships to Regis to those who complete the long-term program. More than 50 academy students have gone on to college.
“Coach Porter’s leadership in the Regis community, basketball and the Denver area is a result of his caring approach to mentoring a generation of young athletes,” said Father John P. Fitzgibbons, S.J. “By living the highest ideals of college sports, and through his commitment of giving hope and opportunity for a college education to a new generation of young people, he has blessed us as our head basketball coach. We are grateful he will continue to guide the Porter-Billups Leadership Academy for Regis, caring for the students and their families, and serving as an ambassador of Regis University.”
After a standout high school career at East High School in Waterloo, Iowa, Porter starred on the basketball court and track at Adams State. He earned All-America accolades three times as a basketball player at Adams State before graduating in 1965.
Porter’s achievements have been recognized in many ways, including four separate Hall of Fame inductions: Colorado Sports Hall of Fame (2001), East High School Hall of Fame (’03), Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Hall of Fame (’04) and Iowa Basketball Hall of Fame (’13). Also notable was Porter’s role as a torch-bearer during the Denver leg of the 2002 Winter Olympics Torch Run.
Porter’s coaching career began in 1966 with the freshman team at Adams State. In 1969, he became an assistant coach at Denver’s Manual High School. Two years later, Porter became head coach at Manual and led the Thunderbolts to a 21-2 record, the Colorado 3A (big school) state title and a No. 1 ranking in an annual U.S. Southwest Region poll. It was Porter’s only season coaching at the prep varsity level.
In 1972, Porter moved back into the collegiate coaching ranks as an assistant at Nebraska. Two years later (1974), Porter was honored with an Outstanding Young Men in America Award. In 1977, Porter was hired as the 10th men’s basketball coach at Regis. His career at Regis began in stellar fashion, as his initial squad compiled a 20-7 record and captured a share of the RMAC championship. Porter earned NAIA District VII Coach of the Year honors following his initial season.
“Growing up, many people invested their time and energy in making sure I had the opportunity to become something — to do something with my life,” Porter said. “I’m very thankful to those people. Because of them, I knew I wanted to coach. What I didn’t anticipate were the opportunities that would come my way and the great blessings the job would provide. I look forward to watching the next young coach build on what we have done.”
Regis will celebrate Porter throughout the season and honor him during a ceremony at the Feb. 6 home game against Colorado Christian. A national search for a new coach will begin at the conclusion of the season.