High school coaching moves get ‘curiouser and curiouser’

News of a couple of local basketball coaching hires, one at the high-school level and the other for a college position, arrived at virtually the same time… and the juxtaposition of the two events makes the link between them more than a little interesting.

Damin Lopez was just named the new men’s basketball coach at Glendale Community College.  You might recognize the name because Lopez was in the news for a good part of the past month.

He was fired by Chaparral High School just four months after taking over the head coaching job at the Scottsdale school, bailing the program out when its coach abruptly resigned three weeks into the season.  Lopez left  a job in California, where he was an assistant coach at Pepperdine University, to return to the Valley to work briefly on his father’s staff at St. Mary’s High School before landing the Chaparral job.

When he was dismissed after the 2011-12 season, just four months into the job, the school didn’t offer a reason for the move.

So… he couldn’t coach a high school team adequately – but he was hired by a college?

The job at GCC is actually a good fit for Lopez, since he grew up in Glendale and attended Apollo High School, where he helped that team to a state title.  But there’s still no explanation as to why he was let go at Chaparral, since he led the team into the playoffs under a very difficult situation that apparently was parent-centered.

Lopez was the third coach the players had to adjust to in a single season – and now he’s gone.

And now the situation gets, as they say in Alice in Wonderland, “curiouser and curiouser.”   Chaparral just hired Dan Peterson, who replaces Lopez, who replaced interim coach Commander King, who took over following the resignation of Aaron Windler.  (Are you still with us?)

Lopez took the team to the state tournament and Windler had a couple of state championship games to his credit.  Peterson, the next to pick up the Firebirds whistle, won one game last year.

Last year, Peterson was the head coach at Moon Valley High School in west Phoenix, where he compiled a 1-24 record.

According to a letter from the Chaparral principal posted on the school’s website, Peterson has a solid background as a player.  He played in college at MidAmerican Nazarene University and then spent several years in Europe before returning home to play for the Arizona Scorpions of the American Basketball Association.

But stepping into coaching has been another story.  He was 16-37 in two years at Moon Valley.

Maybe it’s the water in Scottsdale that is causing these hallucinations.  Just last year, Horizon High School canned both of its basketball coaches in the same week, saying the school “wanted to go in a different direction.”  The girls’ coach, Josiah McDaniel, had just led the Huskies girls’ team to the state semi-finals for the first time in school history.

And, speaking of Horizon High, there is a thread to this latest Scottsdale drama at Chaparral that involves that school.  In an article in The Arizona Republic yesterday, Richard Obert says that former Horizon coach, Paul Long, had also applied for the job and was considered a finalist.

Long says the way he found out he didn’t get the job was to read about Peterson’s hire on the school website.  How classy.

Chaparral needs more than a new coach.  It needs a good PR firm.  Or maybe an image consultant.