Coronado boys basketball coach Randy Dean was willing to concede that his Mustangs were young and inexperienced, but not bereft of talent.
That’s why there was a sense of frustration among coaches and players when Coronado started the year struggling to score, much less win games.
“Early in the year we were all kind of going through it together,” Dean said. “Then when we hit district it was a good thing because we used that old adage of a new season starting. It gave everybody a chance to take a step back, take a deep breath and say, ‘OK, this is what we’ve been preparing for.’ We leaned on that and it came at the right time.”
Indeed it did. The Mustangs overcame an 0-3 start to District 2-5A by reeling off five consecutive league wins, going from the bottom of the district standings to second place behind league champion Amarillo.
The Mustangs didn’t stop until the Class 5A regional quarterfinals and a loss to Arlington Bowie. The fact that Dean turned the team around in less than three weeks earns him this year’s honor as the Avalanche-Journal All-City Boys Baskeball Coach of the Year.
“We played as close to our potential at the end of the year as we could, for that I think it was a good year for us,” Dean said. “It was a rewarding year. We finally reached that point after struggling through the early part of the year and having a hard time winning, winning close games. Then it all came together and ended on an exciting ride.”
Coronado had its share of seniors, but only one, DJ Bell, finished among the top five scorers on the team. Three of the Mustangs’ top four players were sophomores Tyler Thorne and Christian O’Neal and freshman Devondric Meadows.
Those underclassmen had to go through an learning process, which led to early losses and the inability to come through in clutch situations.
Dean never lost confidence in his team, and eventually it paid off.
“A couple of things go into it,” Dean said. “First of all would be the competitiveness of how the guys were going at it. They were playing hard and giving great effort from the time district started through the end of the season. That kind of put us in position to win.
“The other deal was that when they finally got that district win under their belt, their confidence grew and you could see it boiling over in the guys and their belief in what they could do.”
Coronado can take that belief into next season and pair it with experience gained, which should make the Mustangs the favorite in the district — that is, Dean said, if they use it right.
“If they take what they went through throughout the year and it motivates them to get to the next level, then it has a chance to be an exciting thing for them as a team.” Dean said. “If we’re satisfied and content and stay right where we are, then probably not.”
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