J’ontar Coleman wanted what he felt was rightfully his all along.
He knew there was going to be a process, one that saw about 11 other candidates, in order to keep the Desert Vista girls basketball position he took over in January under difficult circumstances.
Coleman saw how the Thunder played hard for him and the potential of what could be accomplished if they were together for an extended time.
And he wasn’t the only one.
The Desert Vista administration did as well and it led to Coleman having the interim removed from his title to become the leading man for the Thunder.
“It is very important to already have a relationship with them,” Coleman said. “Another coach would have to build trust and there would be a get-to-know-you process. They know me, they know the style I like to run, and I know them. We have 12 games together and that makes a huge difference.”
Desert Vista athletic director T.J. Snyder said the 12-game glimpse into what Coleman could do as a varsity coach was part of the decision, but not the sole reason.
“He did a nice job with the interview process,” Snyder said. “Of course he did a good job last season too, but he was really impressive in talking about his plan for taking over the program. He has a positive relationship with JV players before taking over the varsity so it became clear he was best for the position.”
From the start of the process indicators seemed to point to Coleman remaining in the position simply because a third head coach since Rachel Proudfoot resigned at the end of the 2011-12 season.
However, when, the process was dragged out longer than expected it led to speculation that maybe the administration was heading into a different direction or possibly seeking out candidates since the number of applicants seemed low considering the attractiveness of the school and program.
“I had no idea the process took that long, but I am excited,” he said. “We had a good thing going.”
Now, they will get a chance to build on it behind Division I recruits Emily Wolph, a junior guard, and sophomore post Kristine Anigwe, who will have several offers heading into her junior season.
The talent doesn’t stop there as sophomore Alexis Barfield, Lindsey Peyton, who missed last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, freshman Toni Davis, junior Jane Martin and Mesa Mountain View transfer Sabrina Haines are back.
“We all wanted him to get it from the beginning and can’t wait to get back at it again next season,” Wolph said. “I know coach Jon’s a great man and also a great coach so I believe we’ll have a great upcoming season.”
It wouldn’t be surprising if the Thunder is considered one of the state’s top five teams heading into next season.
“We are a state-caliber team and our focus will be on winning state,” Coleman said. “I thought we were last year. I am not worried about expectations and we will embrace it.”
The Thunder will play an up-tempo offense with a trapping defense. It’s a similar style the program used under Proudfoot and again under Jaysie Chambers-Sheppard, but Coleman feels he can take it up a notch.
“It’s a style I played under in high school and in college (at Humboldt State) where we were the top-ranked team in Division II in the country,” Coleman said. “Not only does it work, but the players love it. I didn’t want to change too much last year, just keep it going, but now that I can have a full summer and preseason we are going to take it to a new level.”
Coleman, who is physical education teacher at Sabis International charter school, has already proved he can deal with adversity and guided the Thunder to a 7-5 record in an uneasy environment after taking over in mid-January last season when Chambers-Sheppard was asked to resign and eventually fired for various reasons.
This time around he will have the seat on the edge of the bench from the start and the players will have a comfort level knowing exactly what is expected of them.
“It was a sticky situation taking over like that,” Coleman said. “It’s not something you can prepare for, but it worked out for the best. I built a relationship and we will continue to play with passion and play hard.
“People didn’t think we could make it to the second round (of the playoffs) but I never saw a player put their head down or give up. We have what it takes and I can’t wait to get them together.”
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