When Chris Ramirez glanced at his phone early on Friday morning, he noticed he had received a voicemail from the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
The voicemail directed Ramirez to look for a new email in his inbox. That’s when the Our Lady of the Hills’ athletic director realized he had once again reached the top of the Texas coaching world.
The email notified Ramirez that he was one of the 12 Texas coaches to receive TABC Coach of the Year” honors, which marks second time he has earned the distinction. Ramirez won the award after leading the 2019 OLH basketball team to a TAPPS Class 3A state championship, the squad’s second title in three seasons. He will accept the award on May 16 at the TABC banquet and clinic weekend in San Antonio.
“It was pretty cool,” Ramirez said. “I definitely wasn’t expecting to hear (the news) at that time of the day or over the weekend.”
His colleagues and players weren’t too surprised, though. After all, Ramirez has found ways to create championship-caliber teams for quite some time now. He lost his 6-foot, 9-inch forward Luke Schultz after the 2017 season, the first year the Hawks won the state title. It didn’t matter. The Hawks still advanced to the state title game in 2018.
He then said farewell to all-state point guard James Westfall, who had been OLH’s floor general for four years. No big deal — The Hawks still entered last basketball season with championship expectations, with Ramirez encouraging his players to embrace their respective roles.
They ran their offense through Travis Reeh, who averaged 27 points per game. Will Westfall assumed his older brother’s point guard responsibilities, coolly directing OLH’s offense. Hunter Taylor used his athleticism to spread out opposing defenses, giving Reeh more space to operate. And seniors Joaquin Vazquez and Cole Lutz controlled the post, hauling in defensive rebounds and giving the Hawks plenty of second-chance opportunities.
“I am extremely proud of Coach Ramirez,” OLH principal Therese Schwarz said in an email. “He is a true blessing to our entire school community and I am grateful for his leadership at OLH.
“I know that the last thing he would be looking for is any type of recognition. He would be the first to give all glory and honor to God and then to the amazing young men he is fortunate enough to coach.”
She turned out to be correct about her athletic director. Ramirez made sure to point out that his second state title was a product of his players’ hard work, and their ability to weather adversity early in the season. The Hawks were just 12-7 in early January.
But Ramirez never allowed his players to doubt themselves. It’s a big reason why they began playing their best basketball toward the end of the season, and why Ramirez’s eyes welled with tears after witnessing his players rally from an 11-point second-half deficit to earn a 50-47 victory over Midland Classical Academy in the state championship. He knew how hard his players had worked to arrive at that moment.
“We were pretty hungry and determined,” Ramirez said. “I think winning the state championship was a big accomplishment.
“This is truly a team award, in my opinion,” Ramirez continued. “I am very thankful to have such a wonderful group of boys that work hard, do everything I ask of them, and conduct themselves properly on and off the court.”
His players have a reason for their strong work ethic. What makes Ramirez such an effective coach is his ability to cultivate strong relationships with his players. He knows what to say to them before games. He knows how to inspire them.
“I think that’s the biggest thing that separates him from any coach: The bonds that he grows with his players and how he treats them,” said OLH senior Will Westfall, who splashed the game-winning 3-pointer in the state title game. “He treats us just like his sons. … He is not going to let us fall down a wrong path; he’s always there to lift us up.
“I think coach has truly changed my life and where my head is and how I perceive things.”