RIVERSIDE, Mo. — Park Hill South coach Dan Parra walked into the end of year basketball banquet on Wednesday, April 1 at Park Hill South High School, unsuspecting.
After spying the large media contingent at the rear of the room, he knew there was more going on than the typical festivities. When he saw William Jewell head coach Larry Holley sitting with a large trophy and plaque, Parra figured it out.
“I had no idea,” Parra said. “I looked up and thought, one camera, usually our school camera and then I saw three or four cameras and I’m like, ‘What?’ Then I thought ‘Something’s going on.’ I’m looking at my assistant going, ‘What’s going on; what’s going on?’ He’s just smiling. Then I see coach Holley sitting there and I knew then.”
Parra earned the Paul Lambert Coach of the Year, awarded to the top boys basketball coach in honor of the late Paul Lambert — a graduate of William Jewell College who went on to coach at the NCAA Division I level before his death in 1978. The award was created in 1984 under the care of the William Jewell Athletic Department.
In his first year at Park Hill South, Parra led the Panthers to a runner-up finish in the Class 5 Missouri State Basketball Championships. They upset top-ranked Chaminade in the semifinals before losing to Blue Springs South in the title game.
That run came on the heels of a 10-0 finish in Suburban League Red Division play for the first undefeated conference championship in school history.
“One of the great honors I have every year is to present the Lambert Coach of the Year Award to the greater Kansas City boys basketball coach of the year,” Holley said. “You had a phenomenal year. I had the pleasure of watching you play on several occasions. Even though you didn’t win the state title, you won the hearts of everyone who was in Columbia that weekend with your win against Chaminade and your effort against Blue Springs South.”
Parra became the first coach to win the award twice while coaching on both sides of the state line. He previously received the honor following the 2011 season when he led Sumner Academy to a second straight Kansas 3A title.
Parra coached at Sumner until last year when he opted to leave to take the vacant spot at Park Hill South.
“It really is humbling,” Parra said. “I glanced at the some of the winners on (the trophy) and I’m like, ‘Really? I belong on that list?’ It truly is a wonderful award and it means a lot. Every award as a coach you know what got you there. It’s these players right here. Our whole coaching staff took over last April. It was a joint effort. They had to buy in, and obviously, they bought in whole-heartedly. Without them, none of this would be possible.”
Jed Frost won the award after coaching Park Hill South runner-up finish in 2000. That squad previously held the school record for wins until the Panthers’ 26-4 campaign this season.