Two coaching vacancies at Desert Vista have officially been filled, as the school announced it had hired the next head coaches for the girls cross country and girls basketball teams.
While both are new to their respective positions, they have a history with the school. Dave Williams, who has taught advanced physical education at Desert Vista for a decade and once served as the boys basketball head coach, will now take over the girls team. Meanwhile, Megan Ping, whose daughters Grace and Lauren helped lead the Thunder to a state title last season, will take over head coaching duties for the girls cross country team.
“It was one of those things where I hadn’t really thought I would have a shot until at the last minute I decided to apply,” Williams said. “When I was offered, I knew it was something I had to take. I have such great support from the principal to the athletic director and the other teachers and students. I love this school and I’m happy to take over the program.”
Williams was hired to lead the Desert Vista boys basketball program in 2010, where he remained until 2014 when he stepped down to focus on family. He coached the Thunder to 73 wins in his four seasons and made the semifinals in 2012.
He played a role in developing Desert Vista star Brandon Clarke, who went on to play at Gonzaga before being drafted 21st overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2019.
Williams, a graduate of St. Mary’s in Phoenix, played at Oklahoma City University before landing the head coaching job at South Mountain Community College. He eventually moved on to Mesa Community College before being hired at Desert Vista in 2010.
He contemplated making the leap back into the college ranks after he stepped down in 2010. But he ultimately decided to stay home at Desert Vista.
“I feel at home at DV,” Williams said. “Things are magical over here. I just couldn’t see myself leaving.”
Williams takes over a program filled with young talent. The Thunder went 17-10 last season, making the 6A playoffs under former head coach Raymond Patche II, who took over the boys basketball team at Seton Catholic.
Hannah Robbins and Jaida Brooks lead the Thunder in scoring last season as a sophomore and freshman, respectively. Both figure to make another significant impact next season along with a slew of freshman talent coming into the program.
The team hasn’t yet been able to officially meet together for an official practice or camp due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. So far, they’ve only been able to talk via zoom calls online.
But Williams’ position at the school has allowed him to already create a relationship with many of the athletes. He believes that will help with creating a new culture in the girls basketball program.
“We’ve had some virtual meetings and I feel good about this group,” Williams said. “I’m excited because they understand winning is important but isn’t nearly as important as teaching teamwork and being one motor. Everyone has a role.”
Like Williams, Ping also has an extensive background in her respective sport.
She grew up running and competed for the University of Wisconsin-Eau in college. Her and her husband, Ryan, have been running together since they met, and they carried over their love for the sport to their three children.
Ryan’s job moved the family to the Valley before the start of the 2019-20 school year. After some research, the family decided to enroll Grace and Lauren at Desert Vista.
“We researched all the school districts and the running programs because that is a big part of our life,” Ping said. “After some research, we landed at Desert Vista.”
Chris Hanson, who oversaw both the boys and girls cross country teams at Desert Vista since 1996, decided to take a step back this season and focus only on the boys in order to give him an opportunity to watch his daughter, Sevanna, compete in pole vault for Arizona State.
Ping, who also works as a chiropractor, decided it was the perfect opportunity to step back into a coaching role for the first time since the family left Winona, Minnesota, where the girls won state titles while competing for Cotter High School.
“It’s special,” Ping said of being able to coach her daughters. “This is a special team. The girls are all great runners but they’re also really great to each other. I hope I can help take the team to another level.”
Ping has been unable to see the team in person so far due to the pandemic. The team has conducted workouts on their own all summer.
While Ping hopes to make the girls cross country team her own, she aims to carry on the winning ways of the program.
“Making the program my own isn’t the most important thing,” Ping said. “I just want the girls to continue to work hard and do their best. My goal is to continue to add to the success and hopefully inspire them to want to run in college and continue to love the sport.”