The moment of truth beckons at Basha, home to the most intriguing boys basketball program in the East Valley.
Nine candidates interviewed for the vacant coaching post on Monday, and principal Ken James said the field has been narrowed to three.
A decision is expected as early as Thursday, but in the meantime, the school’s administration has a huge decision to make. To understand the full scope of this hire, let’s back up.
This season started full of promise for the Bears, who were consistently ranked in the Division I top-5 and as high as No. 2 in the earlygoing.
It took a downward turn late, as Basha lost three straight to end the year, bowing out in the second round of the state tournament after blowing a 16-point fourth quarter lead to Perry.
The team’s talent is undeniable. Point guard Jaron Hopkins (21.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 5.0 steals) has multiple Division I high-major scholarship offers, while Torren Jones (19.6 points, 10.2 rebounds) and Maurice Kirby (7.5 points, 7.8 rebounds) are also expected to find homes at the Division I college level.
But a lack of structure doomed the season and eventually forced coach Brad Pinter’s resignation on March 8. With no seniors on the roster, Basha is expected to be one of the top contenders for the state crown next season.
That is, if Jones and Hopkins return.
Jones’ mom, Cheryl, and Hopkins’ dad, Brian, both said their sons are considering the option of transferring, and the new hire is expected to have a great impact on the decision.
In an email Monday night, James said Basha is not seeking input from the families when deciding on a coach, but believes everyone will return next season.
“All the student-athletes are such good kids,” he said. “They enjoyed each other all year and they are friends. We look forward to all of them meeting the new coach and beginning their quest for a state championship at Basha during their senior year.”
James may be confident, but the possibility of one or both of Jones and Hopkins transferring is real.
The Basha system was free-wheeling and dependent on one-on-one play. If a new coach comes in with more structure and half-court ideals, it could be enough to push out Hopkins and Jones.
For years under Pinter, the Bears were a haven for open-enrollment and transfer players. The program was above average throughout his tenure but never made a championship game.
Now, James, athletic director Brent Rincon and incoming Chandler district athletic director Marcus Williams must decide which way to go.
If they choose a coach similar to Pinter, then Hopkins and Jones probably stay and the talent is there to make a run at the state championship. However, can this style do it? Gilbert didn’t have the same individual talent as Basha this season but the Tigers diced up the Bears twice. Basha played well early in the year, but were regularly beaten by teams with inferior talent as the season winded down.
So is more structure the right way to go instead? It runs the risk of Hopkins and Jones leaving and decimating the program, but what if they stay and buy in? Maybe that gives the Bears a better chance of winning it all.
Then there’s the future to think about. Basha has never had a problem getting talented players to come to its school. If the new coach has a firm no-transfer policy, will the team drop into mediocrity once the current talent dries up?
Thirteen miles away at Highland, young stars Matt Carlino and Nick Johnson transferred out of state after a championship game appearance in 2008, and the Hawks are 24-53 since.
Is Basha willing to risk losing its best players by choosing a coach that doesn’t fit their style?
On the flip side, would kowtowing to players and parents take away the administration’s credibility?
Basha won’t simply make a coaching hire in the next few days. It will be defining the arc of the program for the foreseeable future.