When Jontar Coleman came to the Desert Vista girls basketball program, he had no clue he’d be called upon to take on the duties presented to him on Tuesday night.
No one did.
Yet, there he was at mid-court at the Storm Center leading the varsity huddle before a game and when he went back to his seat on the bench, he sat down in the first seat where he left his whiteboard.
You know, the one reserved for the head coach.
Coleman came to Desert Vista as the freshmen coach last season, was promoted to the junior varsity coach this year, and when the administration decided to make a mid-season change at the varsity level this week, he was named the interim varsity head coach for the rest of the season.
“For me it is just coaching,” Coleman said Tuesday after the Thunder’s 83-37 win over Sandra Day O’Connor. “I know these girls well. I talk to them all of the time. We had practice together. They know me and I know them.
“It’s not anything unfamiliar.”
The situation that led to his quick rise came to a boil last Friday when then-head coach Jaysie Chambers-Sheppard had an incident with one of the players. Add it to the number of complaints lodged against her since the start of the season and the administration felt it was enough to make a move.
What it did was remove some of the undue pressure and drama around the team, a team many thought could be a force this season with players like Kylie Butler, Emily Wolph, Jayla Brown and Kristine Anigwe.
And it was clear in Tuesday’s win that the Thunder (13-7) was having a good time, but when a team is in the middle of a 16-0 run near the end of the second half or a 23-6 run to close out the third it is hard not to enjoy the moment.
But most of the players, and some of the parents after the game, acknowledged a different feel to the team.
“It’s a fresh start,” guard Aly Kennedy said. “We feel like we are a new team. Coach came into the locker room and said, ‘We are 0-0 and it’s time to get to 1-0.’ It feels good. We feel more like a team. It’s crazy how it can change that fast.”
SDO coach Mike Arana, a 2000 Mountain Pointe graduate, noticed as well.
“They definitely looked free and relaxed compared to the three times we scouted them,” Arana said. “We ran into a buzz saw.”
It will be interesting to see if Desert Vista can keep that level of play up as the postseason approaches. It starts with Friday’s home game against Chandler, which has beaten the Thunder twice already this season.
“I’m excited and the girls are motivated,” Coleman said. “The girls can use this game as a stepping stone. They know what we have to do as a collective unit moving forward.”
Joining Coleman on the varsity staff are LJ Magee and Adrian Boyarsky.
Coleman, who spent his prep playing days in the Oakland area where he was a 1,000-point scorer for Skyline before moving on to Humboldt State, has had experience coaching at the middle school and AAU level before coming to Desert Vista.
He realizes that there were plenty of positive pieces already in place so Coleman isn’t out to change much, other than maybe the culture.
“There aren’t going to be changes,” he said. “There is no ego on this team. We play together and we are a family.”
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