By Dave Wagner
TEXICO — After 30 years of coaching men’s basketball, Earl Diddle has decided it’s time for a change.
The former Eastern New Mexico University coach has accepted the women’s head coaching position at Butler County Community College in El Dorado, Kan.
Diddle, who coached a national team in the United Arab Emirates for a year after leaving ENMU, is entering his fourth job in four years in Kansas’ Jayhawk Community College Conference.
Following his return from overseas, he spent one year as athletic director and boys head coach at Gallup High School. He then went to Butler County for a year as the men’s assistant coach, followed by one-year stints as the men’s head coach at Pratt and Garden City.
“The (women’s) job came open when I was out at Garden City,” said Diddle, 53, who is in the area this week to work a basketball camp with Texico boys coach Rich Luscombe. “They called and asked if I’d be interested.
“I love Butler; they have a good administration. But I really didn’t think I’d be interested.”
He said another call from Butler County began to pique his curiosity. “I just got to thinking about it again, and I decided it might be a good change,” he said.
A native of East Liverpool, Ohio, Diddle spent 10 largely successful seasons at ENMU (1988-98). He posted a 156-124 record — the second-most wins in school history — and led the Greyhounds to a 23-7 record and an NCAA Division II playoff berth in 1993.
Eastern did not renew his contract following charges by former players of inappropriate behavior.
But there were plenty of highlights at ENMU, including a win over New Mexico at The Pit in 1991.
“I think we accomplished a lot there,” Diddle said. “For the most part, we had good players. I really enjoyed being at Eastern and living in Portales.”
Luscombe nearly became Diddle’s first assistant at Eastern, but eventually moved on to Texico and took the job he’s now held for 14 years.
“He’d have been an excellent candidate,” Diddle said. “I just had somebody (else) in mind before I got here.”
Luscombe has stayed in contact with Diddle over the years, and said he called him during the past season.
“We started talking about some stuff, and camps came up,” Luscombe said. “He asked me about (this camp), and we decided to do it.”
After moving around every year since leaving Eastern, Diddle said he’s ready to settle in for a while.
“When I went to Pratt I wasn’t planning to move; when I went to Garden I wasn’t planning to move,” Diddle said. “But this time I’ve bought a place, so I think I’m establishing some roots there.”
He said he’s happy to be back at El Dorado (pronounced with a long “a”), and doesn’t expect the transition to the women’s game to be difficult.
“I really enjoy teaching the game, and on the women’s side they’ve come so far,” he said. “I think they’re very good listeners.”
It’s not that much different working a youth camp, as he is this week.
“If you understand basketball, it’s not a game of plays and tricky defenses,” Diddle said. “It’s a game of fundamentals. The things we do here are the same things we do at the college level.”
Luscombe said Diddle is the kind of coach who can easily adapt.
“I don’t know that there’ll be a whole lot of difference (in coaching women),” he said. “The biggest difference is in the talent level — the men play above the rim a lot of the time.
“I don’t think he’ll ever have a problem getting a job. He’s been around enough people and he’s knowledgeable enough to be able to get a job if he ever needs one.”