LeBaron Hollimon was a ball boy for the original Wichita Wings. He played for the indoor soccer team in the 1990s and, on Monday night, was introduced as coach of the new Wings franchise.
Hollimon, a 1987 graduate of Northwest High School and the first Wichitan to play for the Wings, described his hiring as a "fairy tale" and a "boyhood dream" in front of about 200 fans at Hartman Arena.
In addition to Hollimon's hiring, general manager John Blazek unveiled the logo and informed relieved fans that the team will indeed be called the Wings, not Wings2.
After Hollimon's short remarks to the crowd, which included several people in original Wings T-shirts and caps, he said that being named coach reminded him of when he first signed with the team as a player in 1992.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"The euphoria, the excitement, the pressure — I'm feeling it all," he said.
Hollimon, 41, was clearly emotional about this opportunity, in large part because of his longtime ties with the franchise. As a child, he had Chico Borja posters on his bedroom wall, and his mother was a Wings Angel.
"The Wings have been a part of my family since I was a little boy," he said.
The new franchise, which will play in the Major Indoor Soccer League, introduced Hollimon with help from Roy Turner, longtime coach of the old Wings and an adviser to the current franchise.
After entertaining fans with stories about the glory days from a podium on the turf football field, Turner asked if anyone in the stands could spot the new coach.
Dressed smartly in black slacks, black suit jacket and an orange sweater, Hollimon stood up in Section 109 and then, with "Rocky" theme music blaring, made his way down the steps to the temporary stage.
Hollimon, who played from the Wings from 1992-99, delighted the enthusiastic crowd with talk of his playing days, the Orange Army fan club and victories to come.
"As a player, I accomplished most of my goals, but the one goal I didn't accomplish was a championship," he said. "I see a bare wall back behind us here that I want to get some banners on."
Winning those championships will be a challenge. Turner said that attracting players to Wichita may prove difficult.
"What we always found is that Wichita is a hard place to recruit to," Turner said. "Once they get here and get a taste of the city and the Wings and the Orange Army, it's a home run. Getting them here is the problem."
Hollimon, who also played for the Edmonton Drillers and Kansas City Attack, said he will use his professional contacts to recruit nationally and internationally.
"I don't foresee it as being as big of a challenge as when Roy had things going because soccer is bigger now," said Hollimon, who has coached several Wichita club teams. "You've got more American kids now that are playing than he had at his disposal."
Hollimon has been assistant principal at Mead Middle School since 2008, but he said he will leave that position at the end of the school year. Coaching the Wings will be a full-time job for Hollimon, who has three children with Annette, his wife of 17 years.
Hollimon declined to disclose terms of the contract.
"Soccer is my passion, and an opportunity like this doesn't come around every day," he said.
The original Wings franchise began play in 1979 and folded in 2001 after several high-profile "Save the Wings" campaigns. Turner called the new Wings "the sequel" and said he has been asked countless times through the years when the Wings were coming back.
He said he is happy to finally have a different answer:
"I can now say, 'Hey baby, the Wings are back.' "