COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - When you think of coaching greats in the game of basketball, you think of the likes of Dean Smith, Pat Summitt, Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski or Geno Auriemma. If you talk to anyone familiar with the seated version of the game, they will put forward the name Ron Lykins. Lykin’s has amassed top finishes on the international level spanning multiple decades and has proven his success on the men’s and women’s side of the ball.
Coach Lykins capped off his latest stint leading a USA Wheelchair Basketball Team with a gold medal victory at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. This would be a back-to-back gold medal performance at the Paralympics, defending their gold from 2016 Rio Paralympic, for Lykins leading the U.S. men’s team. Some might argue that this was one of the greatest tests that Coach Lykins would face on the sideline, considering he had to select, develop, and retain a team through a global pandemic that had many people questioning their involvement.
It’s true that all countries faced the same circumstances, but the fact that half of the U.S. men’s squad for Tokyo 2020 competed on European based teams presented more unique challenges for the program. Luckily for the NWBA, Lykins stayed the course, and he was also able to convince his athletes to do the same. This run culminated in a 64-60 victory for USA, a performance for the ages, in the gold medal match in Ariake Arena. Host Country, Japan, pushed Team USA to deliver its best when it counted most, which is exactly what you would want in a Paralympic Final. What showed the most during the Gold Medal match to the record viewers on NBC and around the world was that Lykins had confidence in his athletes to execute, and they trusted him to make necessary adjustments.
Although the recency of Tokyo deserves praise, Lykins also led some incredible U.S. women’s teams to success in the 2000’s. The USA women delivered back-to-back medals in the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Games. That feat alone would place Lykins in rarified air, but to have accomplished it for both the U.S. women and men is even more exceptional. To list the multitude of other major podium performances during his time representing the NWBA in international competition would take up too much space.
What’s just as remarkable about Coach Lykins is that his uncommon path to coaching greatness would start with an internship at the University of Kentucky. Stan Labanowich, the leader of the NWBA’s second 25 years would take on a mentoring role of Lykins, ultimately sparking a passion for the game of wheelchair basketball and the adaptive movement. Coach Lykins has taken on many different roles within this sport and this association, and we are grateful that he also stayed the course with the NWBA.
He has used his steely determination to advocate for his teams, while also demanding the best out of his staff and his athletes. He’s shown a willingness to give to the game without expecting anything in return. Aside from his record, that approach is what makes him one of the best. Lykins has already earned his place in the NWBA Hall of Fame (Class of 2018; click here for NWBA HOF bio). That is the highest recognition that the NWBA could bestow upon a member. At this point, the NWBA would merely like to say Thanks, Coach Lykins, for making this sport and this organization a priority. It’s been a pleasure having you as part of the NWBA Team.
Although your presence will be missed in our efforts abroad, we are glad to have you pacing the sidelines at University of Missouri.