Sammy Duane Jr. paced the floor like an expectant father following last Saturday's game against Dobson High. The Corona del Sol boys basketball coach was clearly agitated, taking deep breaths as he waited for his players to return from the floor.
A disappointing loss? A lackluster performance?
‘‘They cut the lead to 11. It was getting tight,’’ Duane said after his team's 71-54 victory.
The Aztecs built a double-digit lead early in the second quarter and it never dipped below that margin the rest of the game.
But then, there was another basketball coach at Corona a few years back who also sweated the small stuff.
A guy who would wear the same yellow or orange sweater over and over until good luck turned bad. A guy who wasn't sure a newspaper story on his team was a good idea because it might jinx them.
Sammy Duane Jr. is his own man. But in many respects, he's also a chip off the old block — Sam Duane Sr.
‘‘They're both nervous nellies about everything,’’ said Corona del Sol athletic director Dan Nero, who coached for Sam Duane Sr. as the freshman coach in 1996. ‘‘They want to know everything's covered. Transportation to the game. What the kids wear. How are the kids' grades.
“At practice the day before the game they cover all the bases. They are more similar than they are different. They care about winning, but they care more about the kids.’’
Nero recalls seeing many members of the 1996 team reduced to tears after it lost to Phoenix Shadow Mountain in the title game. Duane Sr. reminded them they'd accomplished something even if it wasn't the top award.
“He told them, ‘I got something, too,' " Nero said. “ ‘You are my trophies.' ’’
Despite being around basketball and his father constantly while growing up, the coaching bug didn't bite Duane Jr. until his post-Corona del Sol days.
‘‘Not until I was out of (high) school and had spent a year at Yavapai (Junior
College),’’ Duane Jr. said. ‘‘I was always around the game. I loved watching games when I was little. I knew all the plays. The game grew on me after I got into college. I came back and started to help out. That's what got me into it.’’
Duane got his first head coaching job at Mesquite in 2000-01, leading the Wildcats to a 65-47 record in three seasons, before taking the Corona job in 2003 when Joe Maisel stepped down.
"When it opened up, I knew that was the one job I wanted and the only job I would have left Mesquite for," Duane Jr. said. "Mesquite was good to me and gave me my first chance, and I owe them a lot of gratitude." Sam Duane Sr., who retired after the 1997 season as the state's winningest coach with 663 wins (since surpassed by Tucson Sahuaro's Dick McConnell), tried to stay away when his son got the job at Corona. Duane Sr. said he may have been too eager to help out initially.
‘‘He really does his own thing strategy-wise,’’ Duane Sr. said of his son. ‘‘I think he uses me more for other things. I go to the games, but it's worse than being on the bench. When I coached you had to make decisions and were too busy to be nervous once a game started. Sitting in the stands you have no control. You watch and hope for the best.’’
Duane Jr. agrees with his father's assessment. ‘‘With X's and O's I do my own thing,’’ he said. ‘‘I learned to pay attention to detail, to look at the little things. That kind of discipline, if it's developed, will carry over into the game. My dad's a very good motivator. I'm not the motivator he is. That's something I'm trying to pick up on more.’’
Even during an interview late Monday, Duane Jr. was paying attention to seemingly insignificant stuff. Having been informed the No. 1 seed in the 5A-I girls tournament advanced to the championship, he quickly said he hoped the same happened in the boys games today since his Aztecs are a No. 1 seed.
In just his third year on the job, Duane Jr. has led this year's Corona del Sol squad to the second-best record (27-1) in the 30-year history of the school.
The only other Aztec team to win 27 games was the 1981 squad that went 27-0 and won a 4A title under the tutelage of his father.