Even though it took 20-plus years, Academics Plus girls’ basketball coach Ken Holland is right where he has always wanted to be.

Holland, 45, is in his first year as a basketball coach. He wishes he would have pursued his ambition right out of high school but doesn’t regret the path he has taken to live his dream. In the process, Holland has also given up some big money, but the trade-off is he wakes up every day and enjoys going to work.

"I’m not looking back and could have been coaching 20-plus years," Holland said. "Every day, I get to teach kids, and money is not everything."

Prior to his career change as an educator and coach, Holland worked for Target for 10 years and had worked his way up to management. He started out at the distribution center in Lindale, Texas and after transferring to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. got into logistics and was an executive team leader. During his tenure, he was instrumental in turning around stores in Hollywood, Fla. and Durham, N.C. from red to green (worse to best). After the Durham stint, Holland was offered the store manager’s job in Virginia Beach, Va. with a six-figure salary.

"It was a lot of money and more than I had ever made in my life," Holland said. "At the time, my dad was sick and my wife’s parents weren’t doing very well so we decided to come back to Arkansas."

Because a transfer with Target wasn’t available, Holland quit the company. He graduated from UCA in 2005 with a degree in physical education and worked several years with Dollar General before working the last two years at Rose Bud helping with ESL (English as a second language) and special education. Finally, this past July, Holland got the break he had been wishing for and was hired as the girls’ basketball coach at Academics Plus and career orientation and history teacher.

"It’s been a struggle and scary," Holland said. "Academics Plus gave me a chance."

Holland played basketball at Quitman and his sophomore year was the point guard on the team that was ranked sixth in the state. His teams went to state all three years he played and were conference runner-up his sophomore and junior years and conference champs his senior year.

Not only did Holland give up major money to pursue his dream, presently, he also has a lengthy drive. Living in Romance which is about eight miles from Rose Bud, Holland drives an hour to an hour and 10 minutes to Academics Plus.

"I am having a blast," he said. "I have energy and feel like I am 25. At Target, there were some days I didn’t want to go to work. I don’t feel that way now. This is what I am called to do, and I understand that."