The Earl of Hoops

Former Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball coach Earl Diddle demonstrates a ballhandling drill during Tuesday’s session of the third annual Texico USA Boys and Girls Basketball Camp at the high school. (CNJ staff photo: Andrew Chavez)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

TEXICO — After three decades of coaching men’s basketball, Earl Diddle is transitioning to the women’s game.

The former Eastern New Mexico University men’s coach is directing his third annual Texico USA Boys and Girls Basketball Camp, one of several that he does over the summer months.

The 55-year -old Ohio native took the women’s job at Butler County (Kan.) Community College in 2003. He left the program in December despite a 10-2 record at the time for the chance to return to the region at Howard College in Big Spring, Texas.

Howard program lost its coach and a number of players early last season, but Diddle jumped at the opportunity even though the team won only one game the rest of the way.

“The whole thing blew up at Christmas,” said Diddle, who was 156-124 as ENMU’s coach from 1989-98. “The athletic director (at Howard) called and asked me if I’d take it.

“I wanted to get back to the Southwest,” Diddle said. “I just thought it was a great opportunity. It’s going to take two or three years, but we’ve got great facilities there.”

Camp sessions this week at Texico are in the morning for grades 3-6 and in the afternoon for grades 7-12. The camp started in 2003 when Diddle contacted longtime Texico boys coach Richard Luscombe.

“I’ve known him for quite a while,” Luscombe said. “I about went to work for him (at ENMU) when I left Lazbuddie (for Texico in 1989).

Diddle said he enjoys coming to Texico, adding that he also has done camps at Rio Rancho and Merkle, Texas.

“I like Richard,” he said. “I feel that it’s a good environment for basketball here, and I like Texico.”

Most of Texico’s upperclassmen were away this week, Luscombe said, due to FFA and other commitments. About 30 boys and girls were at Tuesday afternoon’s session.

“I like him,” said Courtland Luscombe, coach Luscombe’s son and a sophomore-to-be at Texico. “He’s coached Larry Bird (as an assistant at Indiana State in the late 1970s), and he’s my favorite player. He’s probably the best coach of any camp I’ve ever been to.”

Diddle said he’s made the changeover from a sometimes volatile men’s coach to the women’s game. He said he’s had no choice.

“It’s been a great eye-opener for me; it’s made me a better coach,” Diddle said. “It’s been good for me, and I’ve enjoyed it. I think the women’s game has come a long way.”

Diddle spent a year in the United Arab Emirates coaching a national team after leaving Eastern.

“He’s been successful everywhere he’s been,” Richard Luscombe said. “Part of the reason … is that he stresses fundamentals, and that’s what we hope our kids get out of it.”