Alton Lister’s departure Wednesday as men’s basketball coach at Mesa Community College caught the school a bit off guard, athletic director John Mulhern said.
Lister, who led the Thunderbirds for the past seven seasons, is headed to the Atlanta Hawks as an assistant coach. Lister, who played at Arizona State and then in the NBA for 16 seasons, guided MCC to a 17-11 season last year.
Lister, who played for Milwaukee, Seattle, Golden State, Boston and Portland, played in 953 NBA games.
“We’re really sad to lose Alton,” said Mulhern, who will take the reins as the interim head coach while a search is conducted for a permanent one.
“The timing of it all hasn’t been the best; it’s a big position to fill so quickly. We want to go through due process and choose the best candidate.”
The Thunderbirds begin practice next month, with the season beginning in late November, but Mulhern said the team and the school were “making the best of the situation”.
“When a head coach resigns, there is an initial shock, but you get over it and keep moving,” Mulhern said. “The anticipation of having a season without any type of turmoil was addressed immediately. I’ve addressed the team and gone right to work.”
Chandler-Gilbert, Mesa and Scottsdale open their 2007 volleyball seasons tonight, with the Coyotes and the Thunderbirds going up against each other in a quick early season East Valley clash.
CGCC, which was the national championship runner-up in 2006, enters tonight’s home and season opener with six former East Valley high school players, three of whom played for Mesa Mountain View: freshmen Whitley Winward and Kendall Smith and sophomore Rachel Nelson.
Tempe High graduate Pisila Tukia joins Chandler Hamilton grad Tayler Bader as new freshmen on the team, while Mesa High product and CGCC sophomore Abigail Hogle returns.
MCC sports five former East Valley players, including freshman Toe’umu Tafuna from Mesa High School.
Alana Shelley (Mesa Red Mountain), Jae Sevy (Gilbert Mesquite), Mandy Gibbons (Mesa Mountain View), and Sonya Chavez (Tempe) also are returning.
SCC heads out to Glendale CC for its season opener tonight, hoping to return to junior college national prominence.
The Artichokes were national runners-up in 2003, fifth nationally in 2004 and third in 2005.
CGCC volleyball: Home and season opener vs. MCC, 7 p.m. today;
MCC men’s soccer: Season opener at Yavapai College, 6 p.m. today;
SCC volleyball: Season opener at Glendale CC at 7 p.m. today;
CGCC women’s soccer: Season opener at Phoenix College, 4:30 p.m. Saturday;
CGCC men’s soccer: Season opener at Phoenix College, 7 p.m. Saturday;
SCC women’s soccer: Home and season opener vs. Pima CC, 4:30 p.m. Saturday;
SCC men’s soccer: Home and season opener vs. Pima CC, 7 p.m. Saturday;
MCC women’s soccer: Home and season opener vs. Cochise College, 4:30 p.m. Monday.