Heaps returning to sideline as assistant
When Michael Dominguez resigned this week as Colorado Mesa’s assistant men’s basketball coach, Andy Shantz didn’t think twice about who to call to replace him.
His former boss, Jim Heaps, will return on an interim basis as Shantz’s assistant. Instead of trying to do a coaching search as he’s preparing for the season, which begins in mid-October, Shantz decided to take his time finding a full-time assistant.
“I told the team it’s my responsibility to get this team prepared as best as possible for this year, and I think Coach Heaps was the best option to do that, no doubt,” Shantz said.
Dominguez was offered the associate head coach’s job at New Mexico Highlands, only about 90 minutes from his hometown of Espanola, and left Grand Junction earlier this week.
An All-American in his one season at Colorado Mesa (2009-10), Dominguez played one year of professional basketball in Mexico before returning as an assistant the past six years.
The past four he was Shantz’s top assistant and recruiting coordinator.
The position at Highlands opened up when assistant Sean Pryor got a Division I assistant’s job.
“I think (NMHU Athletic Director Bob Clifford) promised him he’d be the head coach in waiting,” Shantz said. “Coach (Craig) Snow has expressed he wants to get out of Las Vegas and (Dominguez) wants to be a head coach. He knows I’m happy and don’t want to go anywhere and if he wants to be a head coach at a young age, that might be a better path.”
Heaps was CMU’s head coach from 1996-2014, going 297-175, winning two RMAC titles, seven RMAC West Division championships and leading the Mavericks to four NCAA tournaments. After retiring from coaching, he moved into an administrative role until December of 2015.
Shantz will take over the primary recruiting duties, along with assistant coach Dutch Johnson, who concentrates on recruiting Colorado high school athletes.
The Mavericks have only one senior on the roster, guard CJ Davis, so Shantz won’t be signing a large class, although he’ll be looking to replace eight juniors in another year.
Heaps will focus on player development and game preparation.
“Obviously he knows the system and we have a really good relationship,” Shantz said. “We had a great work relationship for 16, 17 years. I’m excited to get him back. Sometimes you don’t know when someone retires that you can get someone you really care about back and go through those battles one more year.
“He can focus on the teaching part that Coach (Doug) Schakel and Coach Heaps love so much, and being around the guys. Coach Heaps gets to do that one more year and have fun with it and will try to make those guys as good as possible.”