For awhile there, it looked like the basketball program at Cochise College might be starting again from scratch.
First, the women’s head coach, Steve Lane, resigned after 16 years at the helm. He will likely devote more attention to the Cochise College chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which he founded five years ago.
The 200-win coach built up a program that qualified for the Region I playoffs seven times and twice played in the championship game.
But the program has struggled recently and failed to make the region playoffs again this year, finishing with a disappointing 7-15 conference mark.
Then, the men’s head coach decided it was time for him to move on. Jerry Carrillo, too, had been with the program for 16 years and had built the small junior college in Douglas into a national player.
Carrillo, a local guy who attended Salpointe Catholic High School and the University of Arizona in Tucson, won five Arizona Community College Athletic Conference (ACCAC) championships at Cochise. His 349 victories average out to about 22 each season, making him one of the more respected junior college coaches in the country.
Last week, the 48-year-old accepted the head coaching position at Chaminade University, an NCAA Division II school in Honolulu. The Silverswords play in the Pacific West Conference, along with Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.
But this week he returned to Cochise, citing considerations for his family in his decision to back out of the Chaminade job. The school filled the position immediately by hiring Eric Bovaird from West Liberty University in West Virginia.
So the men’s program dodges the bullet – and the women’s program might also benefit from the change in leadership. The school will get an energetic young coach with Division I experience.
Cochise hired Laura Hughes away from Arizona State University, where she has worked on Charli Turner Thorne‘s staff as an assistant coach for 15 years. That tenure also brings with it a solid recruiting background in the Southwest, which will come in handy as she begins rebuilding the roster.
She inherits a team that was 9-21 overall last season and finished dead last in the region and ninth out of the 12 teams in the ACCAC.
Hughes appears to have her work cut out for her. But those who came before her have paved a nice path to follow. And Carrillo’s decision to stay should remove any doubts that she made the right choice in taking the Cochise job.
In a few years, maybe she can begin sending some of her players back to Tempe to help stock her old boss’ program.
(Photo: Cochise Athletics)