Shantz set for his shot

Longtime assistant says no radical changes in store

Don’t look for the run-and-gun offense and zone defenses any time soon in the Colorado Mesa University men’s basketball program.

There will be some tweaks here and there, for sure, but Andy Shantz isn’t going to try to fix something that isn’t broken as he takes over as the Mavericks’ next men’s basketball coach. The motion offense and man defense will likely stay.

With Jim Heaps retiring from coaching to become an assistant athletic director for student success at CMU, Shantz, his assistant the past 16 years, was promoted to head coach Monday, effective immediately.

Shantz, who, like Heaps, is a former Mesa basketball player, has been the recruiting coordinator and offensive coach.

“To have my first head coaching job at a college that I went to and played at and to have so much invested in this program and in this university, it’s really special for me,” Shantz said Monday. “The other thing for me that I’m happy about is Coach Heaps will still be around.

“Our relationship goes much beyond a business relationship. The fact that he’ll be here on a day-to-day basis makes it really enjoyable for me.”

Shantz, 39, was recruited by Heaps, playing the 1994-95 season, but sitting out the next year after knee surgery. He was a senior starter on the Mavericks’ team that went 21-7 and won the RMAC West Division in 1996-97, Heaps’ first year as the head coach. He became an assistant coach the following season.

Each year, Heaps gave Shantz more and more responsibility as he groomed him to one day become a head coach.

“He gave me a lot of responsibility. There was that trust he had in me and that’s what got me prepared to get here,” Shantz said. “Not all coaches are like that, they want more control of things.”

Shantz had applied for head coaching positions the past few years, and turned down some offers to stay at Mesa.

“The understanding with Andy, because he’s been a candidate in numerous searches and because he’s chosen to stay here, this is a natural transition,” said CMU Athletic Director Tom Spicer. “Quite frankly, we have two good quality individuals and I don’t think we’re going to miss anything. I think we’re going to get better.”

Heaps said Shantz is ready, and he knows he’ll put his stamp on the program.

“Andy’s the guy to take it up a notch, to take it to the next level,” Heaps said. “He’s an unbelievable recruiter, he’s got a really good basketball mind, he relates well with the kids. He’s got that energy and drive that you need to have and I think it’s going to really go a complete step higher.”

Jeff Hart, who played for Heaps and Shantz the past five years, said he saw Shantz grow as a coach every year and would have been disappointed had the university hired someone from outside the program to replace Heaps.

“Those two guys are great guys. Even off the court, I enjoyed being around them,” he said. “I’m happy for Shantz. He’s been an assistant for what, 16, 17 years? It’s much deserved. It’s one of those things that if they would have hired anybody else, it would have broken my heart.”

Junior point guard Daniel Estes said the Mavericks were happy to hear Shantz is taking over as head coach.

“The last two years with Coach Shantz I’ve seen a progression,” Estes said. “He’s definitely not afraid to come in and let his voice be heard. He demands the same respect we gave Coach Heaps and we’ll all give it to him.

“Coach Heaps is a really tough guy sometimes, he demands a lot and that’s what a good coach does. I can see Coach Shantz kind of embracing that role and demanding a lot from us.

“He’s a coach that’s like, cool off the court, laid-back like Coach Heaps, but when it comes to practice, games and basketball stuff, he’s all business, very serious. He’s not going to take anything less than 100 percent.”

After concentrating on offense most of his career with Heaps, Shantz said he’s confident he can also teach Mesa’s defense.

“I think I’ll be able to get them to guard,” he said. “Gosh, I played for him one year and have been around Coach Heaps for 19 years. In basketball years, that’s a long time, it’s a transient business.

“To learn from one of the best defensive coaches in the country, even for me it might start to sink in after a couple of years. After 19 years, you’d think that would set in.”


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