Adan Garcia said he can still hear his brother Roy calling to players at the top of his voice during basketball games.
“He used to say, ‘Como chicle’ — like chewing gum. ‘Stick with him,’” Adan recalled, referencing a defensive strategy the coach used on the court.
The late Roy Garcia spent 28 years at Mission CISD. Although he is most known for leading the boys basketball team at Mission High, he later became the athletic director until 2001, when he retired for the first of three times.
Garcia, who died in June 2022, became a legend in Valley sports. Friends and family still reminisce about his days coaching on the hardwood.
“I don’t know how to explain it other than he did not want to complicate the game,” said David Keith, a former coach and Garcia’s son-in-law. “He simplified it and knew that hard work was at the core of success.”
Former players described Garcia as a father figure. He was authoritative but kind, and always someone that had their backs.
“This man not only changed my life, he changed the lives of many people,” MHS alumnus-turned-coach Oscar Martinez said. “He was a very fair athletic director and he was there at possibly every sporting event. He was always encouraging and making sure people knew that he was there because he cared for every one of those athletes.”
As the Eagles basketball coach, Garcia led the team to 11 district championships and 15 playoff appearances. He boasts more than 600 wins with MHS and more than 700 in his coaching career.
Garcia was recognized statewide for his coaching accomplishments. In 1993, he was inducted into the RGV Sports Hall of Fame. In 2015 and 2016, he was inducted into the Texas High School Coaches Hall of Honor and the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, respectively.
And now, after years of efforts from family and friends, the iconic coach will be memorialized at the Mission High School Neuhaus Gym, with the basketball court named in his honor. Mission CISD will unveil the court with the new name and artwork at a Nov. 14 ceremony.
“It’s a long time coming,” Roy Garcia II said about his father. “He did so much for Mission, Mission athletics, for the community.”
Garcia II said he remembers the moment he realized his father’s impact — it was during his mother’s funeral in 2003.
“When my mom passed away, so many people showed up to the services. It was unbelievable. We had over 40, almost 50 honorary pallbearers that were all my dad’s ex-players,” the now 53-year-old said. “That confirmed why I went into coaching. It wasn’t just to coach basketball but to make a difference in young people’s lives. That’s what my dad did — he touched so many people’s lives.”
Garcia II, who is the oldest of three, said he believes his father gave so much of himself to the community because of his upbringing as a migrant worker. Before Roy Sr. became the decorated coach he is known as today, he was a kid in Los Fresnos who came from humble beginnings.
As the youngest of five boys, followed by two sisters, Garcia was always competitive, his brother Adan said. Whether in the cotton fields or on the makeshift basketball court at their house, Roy Garcia played to win.
Growing up, the brothers played basketball for the Los Fresnos school district, in the Brownsville city league and the Matamoros city league. Although Garcia also played football and ran track, basketball was his love.
“What I always remember is that he always had this dream of being a basketball coach,” his sister Maria Moreno said. “He said he wasn’t going to spend his life working in the fields.”
After he graduated high school in 1961, Garcia earned a scholarship to play basketball at Texas Southmost College. He did a tour in Germany with the U.S. Army and then received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in science from East Texas State. In 1971, his coaching career began at Los Fresnos before getting hired in Mission in 1972.
Garcia initially retired in 2001, but after the death of his first wife Angie Garcia in 2003, he came out of retirement to revive the basketball program at San Benito High School. There, he met his second wife Dahlia Garcia, whom he was married to for almost 17 years before dying in 2022 at 80 years old.
Like he did for many, Roy helped Dahlia find joy in basketball, too.
“Yes, I would go to basketball games and all that but I didn’t love the sport until I met him,” Dahlia Garcia said. “I loved him and I wanted to support him. As I married him and he came into my life, that was our evening — college basketball on TV and I enjoyed it because it was so exciting.”
Roy Garcia would go on to lead the basketball program at Southwest High School in Pharr. He later coached alongside his son-in-law David Keith at Sharyland High School, then once more at Nikki Rowe High School as an assistant. Garcia retired for the last time in 2018.
Garcia’s kids described him as a man of great faith and integrity.
“It was God first and then family,” the youngest Rosman Garcia said.
But he never took life too seriously. While the coach may have had a stern exterior, he was actually “a big teddy bear,” according to his son. He liked to have fun and pull pranks.
Garcia’s daughter Rosette Keith said her father was a safe place and a protector. He was someone who encouraged and inspired. But she also knows he was that person to many who walked through his life.
“He was a man of all trades and he was that for everyone that needed him. So I think that’s why there were so many ex-players that became best friends,” Keith said. “And a lot of those ex-players would say, ‘I’m sorry we took his time from you.’ But that was just who he was. And we never had hard feelings because…we knew that’s where he wanted to be and where he could help. His love was grand and it was meant to be spread to all.”
Although the court dedication at Mission High School provides a sense of pride for Garcia’s family and friends, some feel the ceremony is bittersweet.
“The court should have been named a long, long time ago,” friend and former coach Rene Garza said. “I wish it would have been named when he was alive because he had done so much for Mission basketball with the success he had.”
Regardless of the timing, Garcia’s loved ones said the court is an opportunity for younger generations to know his legacy.
“I think any person that knew Coach Garcia…would also be proud to know that the [court] is being named after him because of what he represents and what he brought to Mission and Mission basketball,” Garza said. “It’s a well-deserved tribute to the person he is and the character he had. The court is him. You might say he built that gym.”