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Randy Holmes considers himself a Lakewood "lifer" so deciding to leave the school that raised him and where he has helped raise so many more young people is a life-altering decision.

Holmes has finally made the leap, leaving his post as head boys basketball coach at Lakewood High School to take over as the head coach at Jackson Memorial High School. Holmes announced his decision via social media on Tuesday and is expected to be approved at Wednesday night's board of education meeting.

"It was a bittersweet decision," Holmes said. "At the end of the day, the time was right. With the pandemic, you just don't know what the future holds for anyone. I have had the opportunity to take different jobs in the last five years or so and because of my loyalty, I never acted on it ."

Randy Holmes. Photo by Ray Richardson

Holmes submitted his resignation as Lakewood head coach in 2016 only to rescind it two days later. At the time, he acknowledged that he had interviewed for jobs at other schools following the 2014-15 season.

"I went back and forth trying to decide and the reason it was so tough is because of what Lakewood has meant to me," Holmes said. "At the same time, Lakewood is changing. There are more people moving out than are moving in and I didn't want to be the last man standing. I still have friends there and that made it really tough but I just felt like it was a good time to take on a new challenge and bet on myself."

Holmes spent 13 seasons as head coach at his high school alma mater, during which Lakewood won at least a share of a Shore Conference division championship in 11 of those 13 seasons.The 2018-19 season was the first time since Holmes's first season the Piners failed to win a division championship and the following season, Lakewood rebounded by winning 20 games and capturing the outright Class B South championship.

Prior to coaching at Lakewood, Holmes starred on the court with the Piners, leading them to a Shore Conference Tournament championship in 1991 before going on to star at St. Peter's University. He returned to his alma mater as an assistant under his former head coach John "Pot" Richardson and took over the program at the start of the 2007-08 season.

Under Holmes's direction, Lakewood won a share of 10 straight division championships and added an 11th in 12 years this past season. In 2013, Holmes led Lakewood to its first Shore Conference Tournament championship since his 1991 championship as a player.

The Piners also won two NJSIAA sectional championships during Holmes's tenure - the first in 2010 in Central Jersey Group III and again in 2013 in Central Jersey Group II. Lakewood finished No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 at the end of that landmark 2012-13 season.

Holmes now moves over to lead a Jackson Memorial program that is now six years removed from its last Class A South division championship. The Jaguars enjoyed a string of competitive seasons under current Neptune head coach Joe Fagan, who led Jackson Memorial to three division titles and took them to a Central Jersey Group IV final in 2012.

"Jackson has a lot of potential," Holmes said. "They do a great job with their feeder programs: Little League, Pop Warner, AYF, the soccer, the wrestling. I have been coaching in Jackson for the last five or six years with the mid-Monmouth program and the recreation program, so I know the players and the talent that's coming up and they are familiar with me.

Since Fagan departed, however, Jackson Memorial has yet to finish with a winning record, topping out at 13-13 in 2018-19. With Jackson Memorial not too far removed from playing at the top of the division and so many other programs thriving within the high school's athletic department, Holmes believes there is potential for the boys basketball program to grow into a Shore power.

Beyond the potential to grow the Jaguars program, Holmes is excited to coach at the same high school where his daughter, Zoe, plays for coach Rachel Goodale as a senior on the Jackson Memorial girls team and his son, Randy, could play when he is a freshman in 2022-23.

"The possibility of coaching my son played a big role in my decision," Holmes said. "They were able to offer me a teaching position, so it's the right situation for me and my family."

Holmes cited Goodale's resume as the girls coach as evidence that Jackson can become a basketball school.

"Rachel does a great job with the girls program and I think if you are looking for what basketball can be here, you look no further than the girls team," Holmes said. "She coaches with passion and you see that passion in Jackson with football, wrestling, with baseball and with the girls team. I can't say if it was missing in basketball after Fagan left but I know that's something that we're going to have going forward. I bring a lot of passion to the game and I want players who are going to have that same passion."

Jackson Memorial is set to return two of its more productive players from 2019-20 in 6-foot-1 senior Sean Slusak and sophomore guard Keith Adame.

"From what I know, we have some solid guys coming back from last year so I'm excited to get to know them," Holmes said. "They're going to get to know my style and my personality and I'm going to try to assess what kind of team we're going to be. I'm going to adjust to them a lot more than I'm going to ask them to adjust to me."