Playing for, Working with, and Replacing MY COACH


I don’t know many coaches who have had the opportunity to play for, work with, and then replace their college coach. I feel extremely honored that I’ve been presented the opportunity to experience all three of those things with my coach, Coach Randy Lambert.  

How Did It Start:  I always get asked: How did you end up at Maryville? 

My college basketball career began at Keystone College, a junior college located in northeastern Pennsylvania.  I was very fortunate to play for a great coach, Tommy Dempsey, who led us to a Final 4 appearance my freshman year. Since then Coach Dempsey moved on and became head coach at Rider University in New Jersey and is currently the head coach at BinghamtonUniversity in New York.

Because of my success at Keystone and the coincidental mutual friend of Coach Lambert and I, Eric McNelly (Head Coach at Eastern University), Maryville was on my radar.   However, I honestly never thought I would pursue Maryville, because it wasn’t a scholarship school. As it turned out, all ofthose scholarship schools I thought would give me a full ride elected to give those offers to other student athletes.  That’s when Maryville College became a serious option as a place for me to continue my education and basketball career.

Coach Lambert was unique in the recruiting process. He was loud, and his southern accent could be heard very clearly in our phone conversations. He stood out. I immediately gravitated to his positive energy, his charisma, and his winning ways, so it was easy for him to convince me to make a visit to Maryville.  I made my first visit to Maryville College in June of 2003. Once I got on campus, I knew it was where I wanted to be. The town of Maryville had a nice vibe and the campus was nice.  Plus, it didn’t hurt that at the time, my good friend Jason Doan was transferring there from Florida International University. So, I committed to coach on that first visit. 

Now imagine how blessed I feel to have the incredible opportunity to soon sit as Head Coach in the very same office where I made my college decision and commitment to My Coach, Coach Lambert.

My Time as a Player for Coach:

Once I became a member of Coach Lambert’s team, I had the best two years any player could ever ask for. We went on to win 45 games in two years, win 2 GSAC Regular and Tournament Championships, made it to the Sweet 16 my junioryear, and to the round of 32 as a senior. Coach has never been big on vocal praise, but all of us who played for him knew when he was proud. We didn’t need words of praise, we knew by look on his face or that pat on the butt as we came off the floor. Those things told us all we needed to know about how he appreciated our effort and commitment to the greater cause… the team. 

The success I had as a member of his teams was great. But the lessons I learned from all the voluntary (and some involuntary) time spent in his office are the greatest memories of all. I may not have always realized it back when I was a young college kid, but he always had my best interest at heart.  He was then…and remains one of the best mentors and friends I have ever had. 

Here are some of Coach’s phrases that have stuck with me through the years:

Big, you will get out of it what you put into it. That is the secret.

(If you don’t know Coach that well, you should know tha your name typically changes to “Big” when he’s talking to you.)

Character Big. It is all about character. How you carry yourself. What you wear. Proper hygiene. 

God’s gift to you is life; your gift to God is how you live your life.

Discipline yourself, so others won’t have to.

If your dreams and goals are bigger than others, than your life should look significantly different than those around you.

I could write a book on the many thoughts, phrases, and quotes he has shared with me. These are just some that stuck with me through the last 15 years of my life, and I am so thankful.

My time as an Assistant:

I am in my 8th year at the college as the Associate Head Coach.  8 years!! Time does go by fast. We have had a great time together. Obviously, a lot of what stands out is our success on the court. Most notably, four Regular Season Championships, two tournament championships, 2 NCAA Tournament Appearances, seven 1000-point scorers, and countless players making first team all-conference and all region. Heck, we also had an All-American during that time.

​But when you really dive into the true success, it comes from the impact any coach has had on the players. To see so many of our former players come back and share their stories of how well they are doing makes all the work we put into it as coaches worthwhile. Coach Lambert has put his whole adult life, thirty-nine years of blood, sweat, and tears, into this program!! He’s always quick to say that the success is not because of him,but because of the quality of young men that choose MARYVILLE. Despite that humility, here are some of Coach’s accomplishments:- 700+ Wins for his career- 96% Graduation Rate- 40+ All Conference Players- 34 Winning Seasons- 19 NCAA Tournament Appearances- 12 Conference Championships- 3 Sweet 16 Appearances- 1 Elite 8 Appearance

Replacing Coach:

We are on this final road together! As we go through it, I am soaking up every memory, lesson, and piece of advice I can get. I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity, and Coach has been so helpful in the transition. Every year he increased my responsibilities, so I could be ready for this moment. Many coaches in today’s game don’t take the time to do that. I am so grateful to be by coach’s side. 

Some of the best lessons come on the road bus trips. Most of our road trips on the Division III level are 4-7 hours away. That travel gives me a lot of time to talk to coach, but most importantly, time to listen.

I will share some thoughts that I have gathered through our countless bus trips:- Big, make sure to take the time to enjoy this. Don’t take the losses so hard. You will be a much more productive individual. – Enjoy your time off. Enjoy it with your family. A man who does not spend time with his family can never be a real man.- Always be prepared for the unexpected.- Always make it about the players. Invest in them. Don’t ever be a push over. Challenge the guys. They will respect that type of coaching and they will be better men for it in life.- Make it fun!! It is a game.- Be prepared with your thoughts, practices, and plans.- Surround yourself with people who share and respect your vision.- Be courteous.- Always give back.- Approach everyday with the enthusiasm of a child. – Laugh a lot. Don’t take life too seriously. A lot of people exist, but not a lot of people live.

We are headed to Averett University now, and I can’t wait to talk and listen to coach. We have 10 regular season games remaining, and I know that those remaining games will allow me some more time to soak in much more wisdom and knowledge. I also know that those ten games won’t allow me all of the time I wish I could have with Coach Lambert. Nevertheless, as I approach my moment, my time as a Head Coach, I will strive to be the type of man Coach Lambert has been and has taught me to try to become: A man of character, wisdom, and love. As excited as I am to begin my journey, I have mixed emotions because I really don’t want his to end. What a Hall Fame career coach has had and no one, especially me, could have asked for a better role model. His shoes are impossible to fill, but I am ready to give it my best shot. Thank you is not enough to say, but with all the gratitude I have, I say “Thank you, Coach” for giving me so much time, advice, friendship, patience, and blessing to be the next head coach at Maryville College.

Raul Placeres is the Head Basketball Coach at Maryville College in Tennessee. After a standout playing career at Keystone Junior College and Maryville College, Coach Placeres began his coaching career at Gatlinburg Pittman High School. Twice he was named Sevier County coach of the year. Since returning to his alma mater as a coach they have captured a Great South Conference Title, two USA South Regular Season titles and an NCAA Tournament bid. Follow him on twitter @Coachplaceres

One thought on “A SHORT TRIBUTE TO MY COACH by Raul Placeres

  1. Raul indeed is replacing a great coach but a better man. Raul’s words are true in his assessment of “big”, I mean Randy Lambert. I have taken different avenues after coaching with Randy in the 80’s. No matter where I have been accross the country or globe as far as that goes I really can’t nor do I want to escape a relationship with Coach Lambert. I have come full circle as I officiate in the,USA South Conference. The look we gave each other on our 1st coach/referee encounter was priceless. Neither knew what to say.
    None the less and in closing Thank You for the ride Coach. You are one of my Heroes.

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