With the spreading coronavirus threat shutting down high schools and spring sports until the end of the month, we have some down time now to be able to look back on some of the many side stories that accompanied the 2019-2020 basketball season.
One of those stories is definitely worth a second look. It was played out on the basketball court at Carl Hayden Community High School in southwest Phoenix.
The boys’ basketball program at that school operated pretty much under the radar this season, a 5A school that was seldom in the headlines. The Falcons finished the season with a solid 19-8 record, but nothing special to write about.
Yet, there was a special story that unfolded this season. It just wasn’t about wins and losses.
The Falcons rode a five-game winning streak into the final month of the season, but wound up winning three of their last five games. And then came the disappointing close to the season, a 53-49 loss to South Mountain High School in the first round of the state tournament.
But the real story at Carl Hayden this season was more about the man who used this season as the final chapter in a long, storied career as a high school basketball coach.
Argie Rhynes, who devoted 38 years of his life to running the Carl Hayden basketball program and 42 years total to coaching high school kids, announced his retirement toward the end of the season. He also spent four years at Phoenix Union High School from 1978-82.
His 1982 Phoenix Union team was a state champion runner-up, but it wasn’t until he got to Carl Hayden that he started piling up the wins, and the state titles. Phoenix Union was a dominant force over the next two decades, and was still a competitive program in recent years, despite the attrition of players that has resulted from other high schools opening in the area.
Rhymes has averaged 18 wins a season over the past four years, his best mark coming during the 2017-18 season when the Falcons finished 20-7. He won 778 games during his coaching career.
It’s been almost a quarter-century since a Rhymes team has won a state title, but during his heyday, his Falcon teams were piling up more than their share of wins and state titles. He won back-to-back state championships in 1986 and 1987 and a couple more in 1993 and 1997. His teams during that period were always in the hunt for a title, finishing runner-up three more times during the ’90s.
Players from the teams he coached throughout the last four decades showed up for his last home game, a Jan. 31 contest with McClintock High School — played in the gym that was named in his honor. His Falcons fell short of giving him the kind of home send-off they had planned, dropping a 62-47 decision. But they came back strong to end the season, winning three of their final four games.
Rhymes is 73 now, but still has the energy and good health to continue molding young kids into good ball players and even better human beings. He is still working with the kids in the classroom, carrying a full load of classes as a substitute teacher.
It was his decision to hang up his whistle. He said he just figured it was time to turn the program over to the next generation.