Up to the challenge

Doug Garner succeeds Jim Hayes as Movin’ Mavs coach

By Jim Patterson

Replacing a legend isn’t easy. Think of following Bear Bryant at Alabama or John Wooden at UCLA. But Movin’ Mavs basketball coach Doug Garner appears ready to fill the shoes of the late Jim Hayes as coach of UT Arlington’s seven-time national champion wheelchair team.

“Doug has a tremendous amount of experience in wheelchair basketball,” said student affairs Assistant Vice President Doug Kuykendall, who chaired the search committee. “So he was a clear choice.”

Garner was named interim head coach after Hayes, the Movin’ Mavs’ only head coach since starting the program in 1976, died in May. The interim tag was removed in the fall.

Garner’s first association with wheelchair basketball came after his son, Tyler, was born with spina bifida. Garner and his wife, Becky, operated a children’s fitness facility in Hot Springs, Ark., so Tyler was always around sports.

Doug Garner with Movin' Mavs

Doug Garner led the Movin’ Mavs to a third-place finish in the 2009 National Wheelchair Basketball Association Tournament.

“You can’t have a basketball team with only one player, so we worked to find other young people with disabilities and educated them and their families about the benefits of participating in sports,” Garner said.

In 1993 he started the Junior Rollin’ Razorbacks in Little Rock under the umbrella of the Arkansas Rollin’ Razorbacks, an adult team that was a five-time National Wheelchair Basketball Association national champion. He and Tyler would drive to Little Rock from Hot Springs twice a week after school to teach the sport to as many young people as possible.

The Junior Rollin’ Razorbacks played their first season in 1994, finished fifth at the national championships in 1995 and won the NWBA Junior National Championship in 1996. In 1999 the team added the NWBA Prep (under 12) national title. Later that year Garner became head of the NWBA Junior Division.

He and Hayes met when Hayes was recruiting some of Garner’s junior players. Former Movin’ Mavs Eddie McGee and Steve Tew came from the Arkansas junior program.

In 2004 Hayes recruited Tyler to UT Arlington and, three years later, invited Doug to become a graduate assistant. As a classifier for the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation, Garner meets coaches and players around the world—always with an eye toward recruiting top athletes to UT Arlington.

“Coach (Hayes) was a remarkable man. He took a lot of pride in doing things the right way and always had the highest expectations of any player who wanted to be a Movin’ Mav,” Garner said. “I want to continue that tradition and the reputation of UT Arlington as a program that will support student-athletes.”

Perhaps he’ll become a legend himself.

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