For some, March Madness may seem like it happened ages ago. That makes sense for those not invested in any of the teams that made the Final Four let alone the championship game. But a familiar face on the TV screen was more than enough reason for many in Gonzales to pay attention to the Texas Tech Red Raiders basketball team.
Class of 2003 Gonzales alum Darryl Dora is currently an assistant coach for the Red Raiders, working on the player development side of things. Dora played for Texas Tech from 2003-2007, with many highlights including the infamous double overtime win against Kansas, who was ranked second in the nation at the time. Dora hit a three-pointer with 3.6 seconds remaining in the second overtime to beat Kansas. That wasn’t Texas Tech’s only “upset” victory during Dora’s time as a Red Raider as they took down Texas A&M and Kansas again in 2007.
After college, Dora turned pro, playing overseas for a few years before coming back to Lubbock to finish his degree.
“I played at Texas Tech from 2003 to 2007 before turning pro and going overseas to play in France,” Dora recalled. “I played for nine seasons in many different countries. After my wife and I got married, I decided to retire from playing and go back to Lubbock to finish my degree, so I could be around for the birth of my daughter.”
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, Dora began work on his master’s. His love of basketball led him to becoming a graduate assistant and eventually to his current role in player development.
“I love the game of basketball,” he explained. “It is something I’m good at and I knew I wanted to be able to help kids. Coaching was just a natural extension of that.”
This past season, Texas Tech made what many outside of Lubbock considered an improbable run through the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, making it all the way to the championship game.
“The ride was very special,” Dora said. “Some guys never get to experience an NCAA tournament, much less the chance to be playing on that Monday. Last year we made the Elite 8 and we lost some great seniors, but returned a group of young guys who'd had that winning experience. We have this group of young guys, one who is going to be a lottery pick and they were ready to go. That fact, plus the way [Head] Coach [Chris] Beard and our staff prepares, I kind of knew going in we were going to make another run. It was people on the outside who didn't expect it.”
Dora admits that coaching and playing are “completely different animals.” But the Apache alum used his experience not only in Gonzales but also in Lubbock to relate to the young athletes on the court.
“I played four years in Lubbock, so I was fully embraced by the community and able to share my experiences with our players,” he explained. “My experience directly related to theirs, so I know it was helpful for them to be able to relate to a guy who was in their shoes in the exact same city just a few years back.”
When asked what his favorite moment was this past basketball season, Dora initially didn’t want to point to one specific instance.
“It's so hard to win in March, but we had a team that was locked in and very resilient,” he explained, “so I would have to say there wasn't a moment. It was really the whole month of March. Playing on that Monday, being one of the last two teams playing and playing for a National Championship was amazing. I guess you could say if there was a moment it was that moment.”
“But winning the Big 12 at Texas Tech for the first time in school history was pretty awesome, too,” Dora added. “That was awesome for me, both as a coach and as a fan.”
Being from Gonzales, Dora will never forget the influences he had from the community as well as his coaches. The former Runnin’ Apache had a stellar senior year in Gonzales, winning the District 27-3A MVP while averaging 19.1 points per game and nearly 11 rebounds per game that season. The team won the district championship with head coach David Peavy, a big influence in Dora’s life, selected as the district’s coach of the year.
“Growing up, I had so much help from this community,” Dora said. “I wouldn't be where I am today without the people the who were looking out for me. When Coach Peavy came in my senior year, he opened my eyes. He really showed me I could play at a Division I school. Not just play, but really contribute. He and his family had a huge impact on me. But Gonzales will always be home. My mom still lives there. I don't get to be back very often because of my job, but because of the people there, Gonzales will always be home.”