First-year prep hoops coaches finding their way

This is where you sometimes don’t learn the players’ last names until a couple games into the season. First names — good enough for now.

Fundraising to do. Jerseys to check out. Numbers to decide. No. 23? No, you’re a freshman. Here’s No. 6. Who’s in charge of running the clock? What’s that? Someone needs to raise funds?

“It can be overwhelming,” Fruita Monument High School boys coach Billy Dreher said.

Give these men and women time.

New faces. New refs. Sometimes, a new area. Other than that, for most of these coaches, it’s nothing new.

It hasn’t been long since the five first-year high school varsity basketball coaches in the area began their respective seasons.

Central girls coach Mary Doane has been a new coach before, coaching in the Southwestern League at Durango. She inherits an inexperienced bunch of Warriors.

Timeout. Doane doesn’t have time to just let them play on. This needs fixed. Now. She sometimes calls the timeout, instructs, then moves on.

At Grand Junction, it’s the opposite. Coach Sam Provenza has been with the girls varsity program 13 years. Provenza said his system is solid for the Tigers (7-0).

Not so with the Fruita Monument girls. Richard Atkins is implementing a run-and-gun offense that he thinks is the future of girls basketball — no overnight revolution. Yet, the Wildcats have showed streaks of running and gunning. They’ve scored more than 60 points twice and are 4-2 heading into this weekend’s Montrose High School Black Canyon Tournament.

Try being Brian Tafel. Welcome to Palisade High School boys basketball, coach. Your first game? Defending state champion, No. 1-ranked Lewis-Palmer. Palisade lost, 57-27. Next game, the Bulldogs nearly beat Fountain-Fort Carson. Then Palisade beat Fruita Monument, 53-43.

But Tafel, of course, said the Lewis-Palmer game wasn’t about his first game. It was the team’s first game, he said. The Rangers likely are the toughest team the Bulldogs will face all season. They are 1-2 going into a home game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against 5-0 Battle Mountain.

Danielle Bagwell will look for her first win with the Palisade girls the same day, playing at 6 p.m. The Bulldogs are 0-2. Bagwell, 29, coaching her first season of high school varsity basketball, was not happy after her debut, a 38-22 loss to Grand Junction. That’s good. The fire was there.

Dreher, so far, has taken a calm approach. A generally calm guy — and it makes sense his smooth nature likely helped him become the University of California at Berkeley’s all-time leader in single-season 3-point field goal percentage — Dreher said he has not had to chewout referees.

Ah, refs and the new guy, or girl. How do you handle it? Dreher has coached in numerous states and even overseas. So you guess on what you can get away with. “Everywhere is different,” Dreher said.

Dreher said the first month of the season, he began arriving at school a couple hours before classes began to get caught up with everything that needed to be in order for practice. You know, uniforms, practice agenda, equipment, then, finally, practice.

And, yeah, Allen Iverson, we’re not even talking about games.

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