Harry Doyle Vines (1938–2006)

Harry D. Vines was one of the most successful basketball coaches in the history of Arkansas. As the volunteer coach of the Rollin’ Razorbacks, he won five National Wheelchair Basketball Association championships and, as coach of the U.S. National team, won one World Wheelchair Games championship. No Arkansas coach above the high school level has coached a team to more basketball championships.

Harry Doyle Vines was born in Caldwell (Faulkner County) on September 12, 1938, the only son of Harry and Venetta Dillard. He was adopted by his stepfather, Fred Vines, at age three. He grew up on a cotton farm but, at an early age, discovered he had some basketball talent. When he was in junior high, his family, recognizing his desire and talent for the game, moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where he had more basketball opportunities. He attended Little Rock Central High, graduating in the spring of 1957, before that fall’s contentious desegregation crisis. He was a standout basketball player, and during his senior year he was named a high school All-American.

After graduation, he continued his education and basketball career at Oklahoma City University. At the time of the completion of his eligibility, he was the school’s sixth all-time leading scorer. After graduating in 1961, he became a teacher and coach in the Oklahoma City public schools. After only a couple of years, he returned to Little Rock, accepting a teaching/coaching position at Southwest Junior High.

After earning a master’s degree in rehabilitation from North Texas State University, now the University of North Texas, he took a position at Arkansas Rehabilitation Services in 1963. Serving in this position for thirty-two years, he worked with the governor’s and attorney general’s offices, Services for the Blind, and the Workers Compensation Commission.

In 1978, he began a new venture as the volunteer coach of the local developing wheelchair basketball team, the Rollin’ Razorbacks. Vines began to turn the team into a national power in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. During his twenty-two-year career with the team, only one of his teams failed to have a winning season. Vines coached his team to thirteen Final Four appearances in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1991, the Rollin’ Razorbacks won their first of five national championships under Vines. Photographs from that game were displayed at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the first time a wheelchair team had been so recognized. The four other championships were won in 1993, 1994, 1996, and 2000. By the time of his retirement in 2000, Vines had posted an overall record of 238 wins and forty losses.

In addition to the Rollin’ Razorbacks, Vines coached teams in the Paralympics, and in 1987, his team won the World Wheelchair Games championship.

Vines received many honors in both his professional life and basketball. In 1980, he received the Governor Volunteerism Award. He was Sherwood Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year in 1980 and 1983, and in 1990 he was honored by President George H. W. Bush as the 967th Point of Light. He was inducted into the Oklahoma City University Hall of Fame in 1988, the National Wheelchair Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.

Vines had two marriages end in divorce. In 1987, he married Cheryl Lady; they had a daughter and son.

Vines died on February 11, 2006, of heart failure. He is buried in the Mayflower Cemetery in Mayflower (Faulkner County).

For additional information:
Lampkin, Donna. “Founder Helm Serves as an Inspiration to Rollin’ Razorbacks.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 24, 1991, p. 6D.

“Obituaries: Harry Doyle Vines.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 15, 2006, p. 6B.

Obituary of Harry D. Vines. Little Rock Class of 1957. http://lrchsclassof1957.com/Obit_Harry_D_Vines_Article.pdf (accessed September 7, 2023).

Roberts, Kevin, “Rollin’ Razorbacks Claim First National Championship.” Arkansas Gazette, March 24, 1991, p. 6D.

Mike Polston
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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