By Mike Pilosof
Photo by Adam Shrimplin
Garden City, KS-If you’ve ever had a chance to watch the award-winning Inside the NBA on TNT with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal, you’ve witnessed some of the best commentary that television has to offer. One show in particular had O’Neal and Barkley going back and forth which at one point led to Shaq screaming at his former NBA counterpart: “Google me, Chuck!”
Now while this man, whose humility would never even entertain the thought of muttering such words, has more social capital than most, he doesn’t need to say it because there are plenty of us who will shout it for him. And with conviction.
But even so, googling Bob Larson still wouldn’t do him justice. After all, this is the same man who is still the winningest football coach in program history even though it’s been nearly two decades since he drew up his last blocking scheme. And today, at least for the short term, the Junior College legend cashed in his AARP benefits for a chance at running the show one more time as Larson was named Interim Athletic Director at Garden City Community College.
“Bob is a great man, humble, experienced and is a Buster through and through,” College President, Dr. Ryan Ruda said. “We are grateful that Bob is willing to come back and help GCCC and look forward to his leadership and service in the interim to the college, coaches, student athletes and the community overall.”
Larson, who spent five years in the big chair from 2008-2012, or the dark side as he often jokes with his coaching buddies, is much more than a college administrator. He’s coach, the man who has tutored so many.
“Bob has been a great mentor to me and many others at Garden City Community College,” said Colin Lamb, who will remain as the assistant athletic director. “We are looking forward to working with him once again in athletics.”
Before Larson embarked on his career in higher education, he was a High School Football Coach at Banner County in Nebraska before becoming a graduate assistant at Western Illinois. That eventually led him to his indoctrination into the Jayhawk Conference when he took a job as the offensive line coach at Independence in 1980.
“I’ve been around this conference for a long time,” Larson explained. “A lot of things have definitely changed.”
After three seasons at Pratt, Larson was named offensive coordinator at Butler in 1984; then was promoted to the top spot a year later, earning Jayhawk Conference Coach of the Year honors in 1985 while leading the Grizzlies to a league crown and a No. 6 national ranking. He left El Dorado following the 1986 campaign to become the offensive coordinator at Murray State. He also had a brief stop at Idaho State in 1992 before landing an assistant job on Jeff Leiker’s staff in Garden City in 1994.
“I’ve worked with some incredible people-(Jeff) Leiker, James Shibest, and Brian McNeely just to name a few,” Larson said. “Those are the people that got the ball rolling in Garden City.”
Maybe so, but the Wichita-native has his fingerprints all over Broncbuster history. He was an assistant under Jim Gush when the brown and gold played Trinity Valley in the 1997 National Championship Game. Two years later, when Gush left to take a job at Kansas State, Athletic Director, Dennis Perryman promoted Larson to be Head Coach. The following season, the Broncbusters knocked off Butler in a wild four-overtime thriller at Memorial Stadium for the conference crown, propelling them into the 2000 National Title Game in Arizona, a game they eventually lost.
“I was very blessed to be surrounded by so many good players and coaches,” Larson added.
In 2004, Larson traded in his coaching hat for a corner office, eventually being promoted to Athletic Director in 2008. In 2007, he was inducted into the NJCAA Hall of Fame, finishing his career with a record of 46-18. A little more than a decade later, he was inducted into the Broncbuster Athletics Hall of Fame.
“Having the support system at this college goes a long way,” Larson said. “It’s unbelievable how things have changed at Garden City. This is a tremendous place to be, and I’m glad to be back.”
While Larson will serve on an interim basis, the college has already begun a nationwide search after Greg McVey resigned from the position.