The Arizona Rupublic’s Boys Basketball Coach of the Year for the 2018-19 season:
School: Phoenix Pinnacle
Season recap: This was Wilde’s fourth trip to the 6A state championship game and his second championship in a row. He lost one of top players, wing Jordan Mains, before the season to a knee injury. With the backcourt of Nico Mannion and Trent Brown turned loosed, the Pioneers ended Shadow Mountain’s 71-game winning streak against Arizona teams on Nov. 30. The Pioneers bounced back from a double-digit loss to Mountain Pointe the following week, and beat some quality California competition. They reached the final of a tournament in California, where they met Santa Ana Mater Dei in the final, a 10-point loss. They rolled through the rest of 6A, riding clutch performances by Mannion down the stretch to win it all.
“This team kept improving daily throughout the year by practicing hard, trusting each other and never getting down on each other,” Wilde said. “They all realized their roles, accepted them and wanted to be great at their roles. A joy to coach and I am very proud of their accomplishments.”
Others considered for Coach of the Year:
Jay Caserio, Gilbert: Led the Tigers to the 5A championship with their only loss during the season to 6A champion Pinnacle early in the year. This was Caserio’s first title as a head coach. He was in his first year as an assistant under Tom Bennett at Gilbert in 2003 when the Tigers won their last state title.
Greg Haagsma, Chandler Valley Christian: Playing without injured top player Connor Braun for 12 games, he was able to get the Trojans to come together late in the season and make a run to the 3A title.
Damin Lopez, Phoenix St. Mary’s: In his second year leading the program, he turned around the Knights, getting them to buy into his philosophies and won 19 games a year after losing 17 games.
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To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at [email protected] or 602-316-8827. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert.