Two favorite sons will match their basketball coaching wits for the first time when Nokomis High School hosts Lincoln in a nonconference boys game on Jan. 26.
The game will pit, for the first time, two of the state's winningest coaches: Lincoln's Neil Alexander and Nokomis' Steve Kimbro.
Alexander has 805 career victories, currently tied for fifth on the state list, over 42 seasons — the last 28 at Lincoln. Kimbro has logged 788 wins, currently No. 8 in the state, over 37 seasons (all at Nokomis) and should join Alexander in the 800 club this season.
The game matching Class 1A Nokomis and Class 3A Lincoln will be the first of a two-year agreement. Alexander said Kimbro will bring his Nokomis team to Lincoln's Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium late in the 2019-20 season.
Alexander and Kimbro grew up together in Fillmore, a small community that feeds into the Nokomis school district. Alexander is a 1972 NHS graduate while Kimbro followed in 1973. Both played there for another hall of fame coach, Loren Wallace.
Kimbro said he and Alexander have discussed a possible Nokomis-Lincoln matchup for several years before the home-and-home series was finalized recently.
"Neil mentioned several years ago he wanted to come back to this area and play a game," Kimbro said Saturday. "We looked into scheduling a shootout, but nothing ever happened.
"Now we have an agreement. I know Neil has nothing to gain by playing us. But at this point in our careers, we thought, 'Why not play?' I think the communities will enjoy it. It will be fun for us, I know."
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Alexander said the matchup, which will feature a 5 p.m. junior varsity game followed by the varsity contest, will be special for him on a personal level.
"I have a lot of family around Nokomis, and Steve and I grew up together," Alexander said. "It should be a good draw.
"I'm proud of what Steve has done. To stay in your hometown and do what he's done for this length of time he has is remarkable. I just hope he's not at 799 (career wins) by the time we come there."
Nokomis has posted 14 straight winning seasons under Kimbro, and 33 non-losing seasons including a 15-15 finish in 2004. He's guided his alma mater to four state appearances, including a second-place finish in Class 1A in 2008 and third place in 2013.
Lincoln has had just one losing season and one .500 campaign under Alexander. The Railers have made four state appearances during his tenure, including second place in Class 3A in 2014.
"The success we've both had is amazing," Alexander said. "You won't find anywhere in IHSA history two coaches with 800 wins from the same town."
Their teams have thrived with similar approaches they learned at Nokomis: tough defense and patience on offense.
"First one to 30 wins," quipped Kimbro.
"Maybe we'll have a shot clock," added Alexander.