Pisgah coach reaches 400 career wins

Feb. 22—Pisgah girl's basketball coach Brandon Holloway has been a staple in the Canton hoops community for more than two decades. Now, the coach has hit a major milestone — 400 career wins.

The milestone highlights not just the success he has had with the program, but also his dedication to the school.

"I love this area," Holloway said. "I love the school. I have two boys that are in middle school and one will be here next year."

On Tuesday, the Pisgah girls took on Franklin in the semi-finals of the Mountain 7 Conference Tournament.

The game was a back-and-forth battle throughout. The Lady Bears finally grabbed a one-point lead heading to the fourth quarter, but that lead evaporated as Franklin grabbed a 10-point lead in the final quarter.

"The girls wouldn't stop coming back," Holloway said.

They kept fighting, grabbing a lead late. The Panthers took a couple of late timeouts. Holloway took the opportunity to challenge his girls to step up to the circumstances.

"I told the girls in the last two timeouts that everything we've done this year has been on the defensive end and if they wanted to win the game they needed to make a stop," he said.

The Lady Bears got the stop and the win, advancing to Thursday night's conference championship game against West Henderson and giving their coach his 400th career win.

"I don't want to say it got lost in the moment, but that win itself was so exciting. I was so excited about the girls and what they did in that game," Holloway said. "When that timer went off, I realized I'd never forget how I got my 400th win. This one is going to be special."

After the game, Holloway told the girls the significance of the win beyond just advancing to the title game.

"They were super excited and it meant a lot to me," he said. "They're a huge part in those 400 wins. It's a special time in this program."

Holloway was already aware of the milestone before the game. Going into the conference tournament, one of his assistant coaches told him "two more games."

The head coach was slightly confused and said it was three more games, referring to winning the conference championship.

"I didn't want it to distract me from preparing for the conference tournament," Holloway said. "Once the game gets going, that's the last thing on your mind."

The road to 400

Holloway began his life in the Bethel community. During his adolescence, he and his family moved to Buncombe County, but there was always going to be a path back home.

His teaching career began in Polk County for two years, before he moved to Pisgah in March 2001. He started out as an assistant coach for the football and girls basketball teams.

Once the head girls basketball coach stepped down, Holloway stepped up, taking the lead role ahead of the 2003 season.

In the 21 years since Holloway has racked up 400 wins.

He attributed part of his success simply to his time with the program.

"We've had a lot of success, but if you do something long enough you're going to rack up some wins," Holloway said.

However, there is much more to it than that. If you exclude the shortened Covid season, he has averaged 19.4 wins per season, a high mark for the vast majority of programs.

Holloway said early on in his career, another coach told him that 15 wins a season is a good mark, but that is not good enough for the program that the Lady Bears have built.

"The bar gets set higher here," Holloway said. "Our goal is to try to get 20 wins a year."

In 2013, the Lady Bears reached the state championship game. In 2014, the team was one step away from their previous success, reaching the regional championship.

Holloway said at the time there was chatter about him leaving to go to a bigger school with a bigger paycheck, but that wasn't on his mind.

"There was never a moment that I considered leaving Pisgah because of the culture here and the support here," Holloway said. "You have a chance to be successful from the elementary schools. This is where I wanted to raise my kids. This is what I wanted to be a part of."

The head coach attributed a lot of his success to the assistant coaches on his team.

"We've had very good coaches that have coached our JV team," he said. "And it shows."

Another large part of the success has been the relationships he has built with the youth and middle school programs that feed into Pisgah.

"We do a kids camp. Every kid who plays for me has been to my basketball summer camp. I think it is so important to be involved in the community through the youth programs," Holloway said. "I try to go throughout the course of the year. I've got both middle school's games. I want the girls to know I'm looking at them before they get here and that I support them."

Having two separate youth and middle school programs feeding in helps give more players a chance to get court time and develop. It also keeps players who develop later in their careers from giving up the sport.

"You get so many more girls who have played the game at a young age," Holloway said. "The two different organizations and two different middle schools help get more kids involved."