Not many coaches can say that they’ve won 600 games at the Division III level, but Maryville College’s Randy Lambert has already accomplished that feat.
With a 63-50 win over the Panthers of LaGrange College, Lambert became only the 10th coach in NCAA Division III history to hit the 600-win plateau.
“I was glad to get that monkey off my back,” Lambert said. “I was worried that we weren’t going to get it this year. We were running out of opportunities.”
The win wasn’t just a milestone for Lambert. It was also a chance for the Scots to avenge a loss earlier in the season to the Panthers, a loss which came on Randy Lambert court.
With the Scots’ minds set on two goals—the 600th win and a little revenge—Lambert said his team played well, not allowing LaGrange to gain momentum early.
“We played hard and competed,” Lambert said. “It was a good win, and it was fun sharing that with [the team].”
The victory was apparently fun for the team, as well.
“They doused me with a cooler of water and did all that, so they enjoyed it,” Lambert continued. “I’m happy for our program. I think that speaks a lot for what we’ve been able to accomplish over the past 32 years.”
Those 32 years are significant. Gaining his 600th win in a little over three decades, Lambert becomes the fourth fastest coach in Division III to reach the mark. He is also ranked sixth in career victories among active coaches and has won over 70 percent of his games.
However, Lambert said it’s not all him.
“I’ve had a lot of assistant coaches that have helped me and a lot of good players that have contributed to those 600 victories,” Lambert said.
One such player and assistant coach is Kendal Wallace, current head coach of LaGrange. According to Wallace, he played for Lambert at 200, coached with him at 500 and was on the other side of his last one.
“A lot of people asked me, ‘Was it special getting the 600th win against Kendal?’” Lambert said. “I didn’t coach that game any different than I coach any game. Our intentions were to win. You don’t go into a game expecting to lose.”
Although he didn’t coach it any differently, he did have an ultimatum to fulfill, according to Wallace.
“He told me when we played them the first time up in Maryville that I could go ahead and succumb to him then in Maryville, or he would probably get it when he came to LaGrange,” Wallace said with a chuckle. “Being on the other end of 600, it was not the place where I wanted to help him get that win. But for me to be coaching against him, it speaks highly of him and how he’s helped me in my life; the things he’s given back to me. I was just happy that I could buy into a little bit of competition and help.”
To Wallace, being a part of win number 200 was a phenomenal experience, which he says allowed him to see that Lambert was going to do something special for a lot of young men.
“As a coach at 500, it just reiterated the fact that this guy is a tireless worker, loves the sport and loves to teach basketball,” Wallace continued. “He loves the mentoring part of it as well for student-athletes, and that just shows how his longevity has endured.”
That long tenure is something Lambert said he can be proud of due to the accomplishments of the Maryville program. Although he’s had coaching offers from Carson-Newman and the University of Tennessee, he said he’s happy at Maryville College.
“When I first started, like most young coaches, I had ambitions to maybe coach at a higher level,” Lambert said. “Your priorities change as you get older, and I just really enjoy it here. I liked what we were doing and what the college was all about, so, it was very enjoyable. I didn’t see a reason to leave.”
Although Lambert has numerous achievements in his 32 years for the Orange and Garnet, there are still some things he’s looking to accomplish at his alma mater.
“Even to this day, there are still a few things that I want to accomplish here,” Lambert said. “I’d like to get to a Final Four. Maybe, 700 wins is attainable. I enjoy it here, and there’s absolutely no reason for me to leave. It’s my home … It’s been fun.”
As Lambert mentioned in an earlier interview, “Jim Valvano said it best … ‘You don’t mess with happy.’”