BUCKHANNON — Bimbo Coles spent 14 years in the NBA, played on the U.S. Olympic Team and ended his Virginia Tech career as the school’s all-time leader in both points (2484) and assists (547). He outdistanced another future NBA star in Dell Curry (father of NBA stars Steph and Seth) as the all-time Hokies leader in points. Curry ended with 2,389.
But since his retirement from the NBA in 2004, Coles has made many trip to West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon, and it appears he will continue making the trek in the future. Three of his children, including two current Wesleyan athletes have donned the Orange and Black.
It started with his son Ryan, who made his mark in track and cross country.
He was a part of three WVIAC championship track teams and a pair of league title cross country teams. His junior year, he was part of the 4x400 team that broke the school record with a 3:16.28. It has since been broken, but remains the second fastest in school history.
Ryan currently works as a general manager of the Mizuno Running Store in Pittsburgh, and still competes in local road races.
“I really enjoyed my time at Wesleyan,” Ryan noted. “I was fortunate to be there with a lot of good guys and teammates...many of us are still very close today. We had some good teams, but we also had a lot of fun along the way. That work ethic I learned as a college athlete has definitely helped me in my professional life.”
Second in line was daughter Brielle.
Bri has done a variety of jumps for the Wesleyan track team. Her primary event has been the high jump, where she has placed high in the Mountain East Conference. Her top league finish was in the 2015 MEC Championships, where she placed third in third in the high jump. She is currently a senior with the WVWC track team.
Third in line is daughter Bella. She recently finished up her freshman year as a member of the volleyball team. She seen a lot of action for a true freshman, appearing in 16 matches and 47 sets and compiling 65 kills.
“I never tried to push them towards basketball. When I was in high school, I also played football, baseball and ran track,” Coles said. “In fact I considered some other sports, and was drafted in baseball. I just wanted to see them involved in a lot of different things as kids, and fortunately, they have been able to continue competing on the college level.”
And not just competing, but at a school Coles and his wife Wesley have grown fond of.
“I have just felt that the small school was better for them,” Coles said. “Small town as well. I have always thought it was advantageous to have them where they could get to know their professors.”
Bri and Bella recently sat down and spoke of their time as NBA kids.
“It was tough,” Bri said. “We would get acclimated with a school and friends...then he would get traded and we would have to move to somewhere new. We were in several situations where we went to a new town and didn’t know anyone.”
“We didn’t run away from basketball, but it was important to me to find some success in another sport...we just wanted to be able to forge our own path.” Bella said.
“It was tough on me as a parent, because there are so many things that you miss,” Bimbo said. “You are literally just a part time parent for eight months at a time. Now that I am out of basketball, I can see how much I missed; I am now getting to go to a lot of things with my youngest one, and it feels good to be able to a part of so much more.”
Bimbo Coles played from 1990 through 2004. This included six years with the Heat, four years with Golden State, one year in Atlanta, two years in Cleveland, one in Boston, then a final year back in Miami in 03-04. He was an assistant coach on the Heat staff in 2006 when they won their first NBA title. He closed his pro career after appearing in 852 games, draining 252 three-pointers, and shot a sterling 81.1 percent from the foul line.
A native of Lewisburg and a star at Greenbrier East High School, the end of his NBA journey meant getting to return home to both he and his wife’s extended families.
“People talk about how sad it is when a pro athlete retires after a long career,” Bri said. “But for us, it was very exciting...we knew we were finally going to get to go home.”
For now, there is work to be done for the Coles sisters at WVWC. Bri is a part of a senior class that is hoping to make history this year by winning a fourth consecutive MEC title...a tough task since the team graduated almost half of their 2016 points.
Bella is part of a young volleyball roster that is gearing to the future. Several younger players saw significant action this season for the Bobcats.