High school coaching can be a thankless job with long hours, low pay and a thousand little tasks having nothing to do with actual coaching.
But a good coach and his/her staff makes a world of difference. So with the school year behind us, let’s take a look at the top five candidates (in alphabetical order) for the Tribune’s 2012-13 Coach of the Year award.
The winner will be announced next week:
Rex Bowser, Seton Catholic, football
Always on the verge, never the ones, Seton handled a rash of injuries, a dicey quarterback rotation and the playoffs to (near-) perfection. After a 24-21 loss to Tempe Prep in which the Sentinels lost starting quarterback Ryan Bresnahan and a couple starting lineman, the Sentinels chose to stiffen rather than sulk. David Gesicki and a string of JV running backs/lineman came in from the sidelines, and, with lots of help from Matt Haggerty and a strong senior class, led the Sentinels to the Division IV state championship. Behind this was Bowser, who not only got the best out of his previously-unknown reserves, but navigated a potential quarterback controversy when Bresnahan returned from his thumb injury and the two QBs wound up sharing snaps during the playoffs. The kids cooperated, and Bowser made his intentions clear to all parties involved while simultaneously tuning out any “white noise” about the situation. Oh, and the Sentinels played physical, fast defense. The result was a wild 24-21 win against Cottonwood Mingus in the quarterfinals, then 42-14 and 28-7 wins over juggernauts Show Low and Lakeside Blue Ridge, respectively. It used to be the White Mountain schools could proverbially punch the southern Arizona schools in the mouth and they’d crumble. Not anymore.
Sam Duane Jr., Corona del Sol, boys basketball
Let’s hold off on the “d” word for the moment, even though Corona del Sol has won two consecutive Division I state titles and will undoubtedly enter as favorites to win a third this winter. This is about transformation. Two years ago, size mattered as the Aztecs won a state championship and the Sam Duane-Sam Duane Jr., father-son coaching storyline at Corona was all the rage. This season, all but Cassius Peat of that “size” was gone, but Corona (with a little fortune in an epic double-overtime quarterfinals win against Mountain Pointe) did it again, this time with an elite point guard (Casey Benson) and a bunch of guys who defended, took charges, ran the floor, rebounded as undersized forwards and occasionally hit the big outside shot. Having Benson, the best point guard in the state, helped a lot, but guys willing to make the basic, unpopular, unheralded plays for the team’s sake is a pretty good measurement of its coach.
Stefanie Ewing, Chaparral, softball
Sometimes the deep postseason runs (in any sport) is about whichever team is hot at the right time, meaning entering postseason play. That wasn’t even the case here. Chaparral entered the postseason as the No. 14 seed in Div. I, coming off losses against Horizon and Xavier with couple nondescript wins in between. Then Ewing got hurt and couldn’t coach. Then an assistant coach quit before the tournament started. Then came a death of a player’s close friend. Then came Ewing’s return and the hot streak. Dallas McBride starred in the pitching circle and at the plate, and a loose disposition and some mental tutorials from their coach led Chaparral to the finals, where the run was ended by Red Mountain. Fortunate to be flanked by longtime Valley coaches in Mike Stoffey and Keith Householder, it was Ewing who kept the kids’ attention.
Joe Germaine, Queen Creek, football
Everyone knew the name and background. Not many outside a few kids and coaches at Basha — where he helped as an assistant before being hired at Queen Creek — knew whether “the name” could coach. Well, he’s 34-5 in three seasons at the helm after a trip to the state quarterfinals, followed by the semifinals, and, most recently, a perfect season and Division III state championship in 2012. Wisely flanked with longtime assistants (some of whom are from his Mountain View days 20 years ago). The former quarterback has followed an old-school Mountain View script of sorts from the 1980s and 90s: Run the ball, play defense and don’t commit penalties or turnovers. Easier said than done, even if the Bulldogs aren’t making it seem that way.
Rich Hamilton, Red Mountain, softball
If you think the only thing a coach who has talented kids every year simply rolls out the balls, points kids to a position, writes down a lineup and waves his/her arm around the third base coaching box, then hang out for a week, a month or a season. It doesn’t quite work that way. So beyond the fourth consecutive state championship won by the Lions this season — in a sport and Valley loaded with talented kids — it was done with a different core group of kids from the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and only after some massaging of egos and a few stern discussions about “we” before “me.” To that end, Hamilton is a master at getting the team concept through to his kids while they pursue more playing time, college scholarships and some parents who always think otherwise when it comes to coaching. Those traits are no different than most other successful programs at every school. Doing so and yielding these results, is.
Honorable mention: Steve Belles, Hamilton, football; Steve Campbell, Williams Field, football/track and field; Brian Fischer, Notre Dame, baseball; Rosanne Headley, Campo Verde, girls soccer; Marc Kelly, Brophy, boys soccer; Val McKenzie, Horizon, girls volleyball; Tricia Melfy, Campo Verde, girls volleyball; Anthony Millanes, Mesa, boys volleyball; Eric Richardson, Chandler, girls track and field