The request was straightforward, confident and sums up J’ontar Coleman perfectly.
“Give me a year and let me show you what I can do.”
Coleman said that was his message to the Desert Vista administration when he interviewed for the girls basketball post. He had done a fine job guiding the program the final 10 games of last season after the head coach was removed on Jan. 14, 2013.
The job had to be officially opened to the entire district no matter how well he did or didn’t do.
The DV administration listened. The players rejoiced. The program turned around.
The Thunder (28-2) enter the Division I state semifinals against Dobson on Friday for the first time since 2004 with a chance to win the program’s first state title with a couple of more wins.
Anyone who knew what the environment was like within the program about 13 months ago could not have envisioned the Thunder would be in this position right now.
There was a ton of negativity, parents were going to the administration after feeling their concerns weren’t being heard by the coach, some of the players didn’t understand how they were being used and a team with two Division I players on the floor was not improving.
It takes an awful lot for a high school coach to be removed mid-season. It reached that point with Jaysie Chambers-Sheppard. That was the hard part.
The easy part was going to Coleman, then the junior varsity coach, for the rest of the year.
“We needed some stability and he had worked with most of the girls the previous year,” Thunder athletic director T.J. Snyder said. “He took over and did exactly what we needed him to do.”
The first game was a sign of the things to come as Desert Vista was, which went 6-4 under Coleman last year, dominant in beating Sandra Day O’Connor 83-37.
The girls were loose, had fun and were confident.
It’s pretty much been the theme of this season as Desert Vista, other than two uncharacteristic losses to Mesquite, has rolled up to this point.
With the addition of Sabrina Haines, a transfer from Mountain View, to go along with senior Emily Wolph and Kristine Anigwe, the Thunder were the preseason favorites in DI.
Expectations are one thing; proving it is another.
The team never shied away from those expectations either, following their coach’s lead in the confidence department, by openly talking about their goal of winning state.
They were just following Coleman’s lead.
“He’s a great coach to play for and wants to win as much as we do,” Haines said. “He’s a good communicator and focuses on team work.”
Coleman also practices what he preaches. His assistant Adrian Boyarsky is heavily involved with just about everything that goes on within the program. So much so I had a referee tell me that Boyarsky was the head coach. I corrected him but it isn’t hard to see why.
There are times when Boyarsky does most of the talking during time outs and again goes to show Coleman’s confidence because there are a lot of head coaches out there who wouldn’t be completely comfortable with another coach leading the huddle.
“He lets me know what the other team is running on offense and defense,” Coleman said. “He does my substitution relays. We have a great relationship and I don’t know what I would do without him.”
Much of the same can be said about Coleman if he had walked out of the DV administration offices and hadn’t gotten the one year to prove himself that he pleaded for back in April.
“I’m so thankful it all worked out,” Coleman said. “I love these girls and I’d do anything for them. Right now, we are two wins away from pulling off the ultimate goal. I knew when I took over originally that the talent for something like this was there.
“We just needed some time to prove it.”
One year sounds about right.
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.