AP NEWS

There may be little to talk about in hoops offseason

April 3, 2019

Here we are in April — barely 18 days since the end of the 2018-19 prep basketball season — and you can feel basketball fans around the North poking at the embers, looking for something — anything — to keep them warm in the offseason.

Normally, they could turn to the “silly season” of prep basketball in which coach openings are abundant to fill that void. Unfortunately, the fuel to stoke those flames is low. The past two years brought a flurry of activity that kept fans excited for the upcoming year.

In 2017, it was the openings at St. Michael’s (boys), Pojoaque (boys) and Española Valley (boys and girls) that enticed us. A year ago, the girls side kept everyone’s attention, as Santa Fe High, Santa Fe Indian School, Los Alamos and Española Valley and Las Vegas Robertson were the premier jobs that drew the most attention.

At some point, though, we were going to run out of big-time jobs to keep our imagination running wild. As we speak, the biggest openings belong at Los Alamos and West Las Vegas boys — one job that doesn’t elicit much excitement (Los Alamos) and one that is mildly interesting (West Las Vegas).

In Los Alamos, we have a program that has mostly struggled since the days of Alex Kirk, as it reached the state tournament just twice since the 2009-10 season. It is weird to say that, because you look at the majority of other sports at the school, and they enjoy immense success — just not in football and basketball. There are definitely athletes there, but they do not gravitate toward those sports.

As for West Las Vegas, inconsistency has plagued the program for much of the past 10 years. Moments of glory (state championship appearances in 2008, 2015 and 2016) are offset with rebuilding years. Still, when they have the talent and the coaching, the Dons are instant contenders. In a 3A that is not as competitive as in the past, the rebuilding project can be quicker — with the right coach, of course.

The right choice, though, has to deal with an impatient — and in some cases unrealistic — fan base that thirsts for a state championship. And one likely won’t be enough.

With that said, do not discount a surprise opening or two that sometimes occur just as the school year is about to end. Last year, SFIS and Robertson opened in May and June, respectively. So, who might be those wild-card openings?

You can never go wrong with Española Valley boys. Heck, the rumor since the end of the first round of state tournament was that James Branch was on his way out. However, he is still the head coach, and certainly deserves to be considering he led the Sundevils to the state finals in 2018 and consecutive district titles, which hasn’t been done in five years.

And don’t forget the Pecos girls. Ron Drake finally got his state title and might be ready to step away from running a program. That the program has plenty of good talent coming back would make it an intriguing place for prospective coaches.

If neither of those things happen, it could be a lean year for the “silly season.” And basketball fans will have to wait for the summer camps to commence after Memorial Day to get their basketball fix.