Murray Garvin’s return to Lexington to become head boys’ basketball coach at Paul Laurence Dunbar marked a homecoming for him in two ways when he was introduced in the school’s gym on Friday.
“I’m delighted to be back home. I consider this home,” Garvin said with his wife, Latanza, and one of his daughters, Jaila, with him for the announcement. “I was born and raised in Pikeville, Kentucky. And to be back in the great state of Kentucky is an absolute dream come true.”
But there was another tug for him at Dunbar.
“I’ve spent the last 20 years coaching college basketball on every level. And … all I ever wanted to be was a high school boys’ basketball coach,” Garvin said, pausing to gather himself and an emotional moment. “And to have that opportunity, I’m so very grateful.”
Garvin takes over after the retirement of Scott Chalk, who led the Bulldogs to a Boys’ Sweet 16 championship in 2016 with a team that included Taveion Hollingsworth, an eventual Mr. Basketball honoree and Western Kentucky standout.
“This program is set on a solid foundation,” Garvin said. “When I look up in the rafters and I see Cameron Mills, Darnell Burton, Taveion Hollingsworth, Collier Mills (and) Coach Chalk and a state championship just a few years ago, I know that we’re able to accomplish those dreams and goals again in the near future.”
Garvin inherits a team that finished the 2020-21 season with a 13-6 record and reached the 11th Region semifinals, losing there by a point to crosstown-rival Frederick Douglass in a game that could have gone either way.
Despite having no seniors, the Bulldogs twice beat rival Lexington Catholic, the first win knocking the Knights from the undefeated ranks and a No. 1 ranking, and the second win claiming the 43rd District title.
“We’re all looking forward to working and competing for a championship,” rising senior guard Max Van Dyke said. “We have a lot of seniors and we want to go out with a bang, so hopefully, we can do that. … Coach Chalk was a great coach. We loved having him. Now, with Coach G, it’s just exciting to have someone new.”
Dunbar’s other returnees include All-City juniors Tim Hall and Nick Spalding, the on-court leaders of a group that should contend for another 11th Region crown.
“It’s no secret, next year’s team is very talented, and they’re capable,” Garvin said. ‘I haven’t met a majority of them, yet. I have watched some film, and I’m very impressed by what Coach Chalk did with the program.”
Garvin knows it won’t be easy.
“We just want to continue to build on the foundation that (Chalk) set, and hopefully get to that regional championship,” Garvin said. “And I know that’s very hard to do. There’s exceptional coaches and Region 11 and in Fayette County — you’ve got the best of the best. And if you can win against competition here in the area, you can compete in the state.”
Garvin spent the last 11 seasons at South Carolina State, nine as head coach, with his most successful season coming in 2015-16 when the Bulldogs went 19-15 overall and 12-4 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. His contract was not renewed after a 1-17 mark this past year.
But Garvin has had plenty of other success since his three years as a Tates Creek boys’ basketball assistant in the last 1990s. He coached Winston-Salem State to the CIAA Southern Division championship and an NCAA Division II Tournament appearance in 2009-10 and took Clinton Junior College in Rock Hill, S.C., to the Carolina’s Junior College Conference Division I Championship in 2004 and afterward was selected as the Carolinas Junior College Conference Coach of the Year.
“I wouldn’t have come back for just any high school job, but the opportunity to serve here Paul Laurence Dunbar as the head boys’ basketball coach was something that I only dreamed about,” Garvin said. “I grew up during the era of Darnell Burton (who went on to an outstanding college career at Cincinnati). And he was the first player that I noticed at Dunbar High School. That was in the early 90s And that was when I was a young kid in Pikeville, Kentucky, and it’s always been something that I’ve admired from afar.”
It was Garvin’s Pikeville connection that played a role in bringing him here. Dunbar Athletics Director Jason Howell is also from Pikeville and both played for the Pikeville High School football team, Howell in the state championship years of 1988 and 1989 and Garvin through the 1991 season in which he set a number of receiving marks that remain in the state record books.
The two had talked over the years about Garvin returning to the high school ranks, Garvin said. When Chalk retired, a perfect opportunity presented itself.
“A lot of people don’t understand — coaching college and then coming to high school — ‘how could this have been your dream?’” Garvin explained. “Well, my high school (basketball) coach (Ken Trivette) is sitting in the crowd. And he’s the very reason that I got into coaching basketball. And all I ever wanted to do was to serve the community like he did and what he did for me as a youth.”