Steve Botkin has made his mark on girls basketball in Southern Arizona like none other, notching his 500th career win yesterday on the way to coaching Sahuaro to the Boyd Baker Tipoff Classic championship.
The Southern Arizona coach with the next amount of wins is former Marana coach Mike Dyer with 337. Former Sahuaro coach Jim Scott, one of Botkin’s mentors along with boys basketball coaching legend Dick McConnell, had 333 wins.
Botkin conducted himself last night with his team, family and supporters, in the same professional and courteous manner he did at Rincon coaching his first game in 1995 when he was only 26, about 10 years removed from graduating at Sahuaro.
Nothing has changed about Botkin, who is now 50, since the days he was a colleague of mine covering high school sports at The Arizona Daily Star while attending the University of Arizona in the late 1980’s.
That is the most impressive aspect of Botkin — the 500 wins is a footnote to his character and he is respected as a son, husband, father, brother, friend and teacher as much as he is a coach.
Botkin approached his parents Bud and Clara and hugged them after the 46-39 win over Salpointe in the championship game at Sahuaro. Botkin estimates they have watched about 480 of his 501 wins following Sahuaro’s win last night against the Lancers. Bud and Clara have endured after their son Rick, a football star at Sahuaro, was tragically killed in a car accident more than 40 years ago.
Steve’s accomplishment yesterday no doubt made them more proud of what their sons mean to them.
After the win over Salpointe, Botkin embraced his team manager and told her how much he appreciated her value. How many coaches do that? As athletic director, he also made sure to thank his staff who handled the operations end of the tournament, doing the stats, administering games in the auxiliary gym and serving food to fans during the two-day event.
He also turned to his wife Laura and kids Alyssa (who is on Sahuaro’s team) and Rick and gave them the love they deserve supporting him throughout his 24-year coaching career. “They mean the world to me. They’re my rock,” Botkin said.
His players look at him as a father figure.
“He’s very supportive in everything we do,” said Sahuaro guard Lucky Franke, a member of the all-tournament team with her 11 points, nine coming in a pivotal second half, in Sahuaro’s win over Salpointe last night.
“He helps us so much in basketball and school and everything else like that.”
Alyssa Brown, the tournament MVP who had 16 points, 12 rebounds and five steals, added that Botkin is “very supportive on and off the court. He’s always there no matter what you need … help with school, anything family stuff … he’s always there and he’s just a great coach. He understands how people play very well.”
Botkin takes pride in the fact two of his former players — Vanessa Lemmon and Olivia Harden — are on the bench helping him coach.
Harden signed a basketball along with her teammates signifying Botkin’s 200th win. Her sister Sydney Harden, who graduated in 2017 after scoring more than 1,000 points in her career, signed the balls honoring Botkin’s 300th and 400th wins. Alyssa Brown, their sister, signed No. 500 yesterday.
After the win over Rincon yesterday in a semifinal game, notching the 500th win for Botkin, Sydney joined the celebration with her sisters and mother Lisa Moore via Face Time on an iPhone from where she is living in West Virginia.
“They were all circled around, mom and the three girls,” Botkin said. “Sydney said, ‘I love you coach, congratulations.’ It brought tears to my eyes because that to me is what it is all about.”
Botkin said he keeps all the notes and cards his players have given him through the years at Rincon and Sahuaro.
“I had a young lady leave a note, one of my players, leave a note on my desk and she said that I’m the closest thing to a dad that she’s ever had,” Botkin said. “To me, if I can provide just even a little bit of guidance and help her with her decision making and things like that down the road, that’s more important than the wins.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.