St. Mary’s HS hires girls’ basketball coach…no, really

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                </div>Liberty Brittain was announced just yesterday as the new girls’ basketball coach at St. Mary’s High School and already she has probably been on the job longer than the last […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Liberty Brittain was announced just yesterday as the new girls’ basketball coach at St. Mary’s High School and already she has probably been on the job longer than the last coach the school hired.

St. Mary’s, which has been a nationally-ranked powerhouse in girls’ basketball for the past few years, lost the coach that took the program to that level when Curtis Ekmark resigned after last season to take over a Nike-sponsored club program.

The Knights finished the 2011-12 season as the consensus No. 1 prep team in the nation after going undefeated through 30 games, and have won the last three Arizona big-school state championships.

But now, it would appear the dominance St. Mary’s has enjoyed in recent years is in danger of fading away again.

With Ekmark leaving and all of the Division I prospects graduating, the head-coach position didn’t carry the attraction it enjoyed when the program was laden with top talent, and the search for a new coach was an even bigger challenge than anticipated.

The only high-profile player left over from the championship teams of the past was Ekmark’s daughter Courtney, who will be a senior this year.  However, there was the obvious speculation that the team’s leading scorer from last year would decide to play elsewhere since her father wouldn’t be on the bench for her final season.

That was still a very real possibility when the school proudly announced it had found its new head coach in a former WNBA player that had agreed to take over the job.  That was the day before the Fourth of July holiday.  By the day after the Fourth, the AIA had re-posted the job opening on its website.

Somewhere in there Coco Miller had second thoughts about accepting the challenge.  To be sure, it would be a gamble for any new coach.  Due to the high visibility the program has attained at the state and national levels, any fall-off would receive both intense scrutiny and nagging publicity.

Curtis Ekmark was there for six years and compiled a 154-21 record during that time, basically taking a team of talented youngsters who had played club ball together for years and molding them into a top high school team.

Maybe Miller sensed that Courtney Ekmark wasn’t going to return, which would make the challenge even steeper.  Ekmark is one of the elite shooting guards in the country, last year was named the Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year, and is ranked by ESPN as the No. 7 overall prospect in the Class of 2014.  She averaged 19.6 points, five rebounds, and four steals as a junior to help the Knights to a 29-1 record.

Well, that’s exactly what happened.  The youngster, who has committed to play for defending national champion Connecticut after she graduates, decided to be home-schooled for her final year of high school.  That shouldn’t be a problem since she is an “A” student and at the top of her class at St. Mary’s, a small Catholic school in downtown Phoenix.

When Miller saw the light and backed out, it took the school another six weeks before it was able to announce a new hire.  And, at first glance, it would appear that athletic director Greg Fahrendorf didn’t find what he was looking for because he has turned to the program’s JV coach to step into the role.

Brittain has also been a  classroom teacher at the school, so he didn’t have to reach out very far to find the replacement.  She played basketball at Tempe Prep from 2005 to 2008 and was the team’s leading scorer during her junior and senior years.

While the young 20-something newly-minted head coach obviously knows the game, there doesn’t appear to be any head-coaching experience in her slim resume.  And her hire comes more than two months after Ekmark turned in his resignation – despite the fact that she has been on staff and under the nose of Fahrendorf all that time.

Things don’t add up.  It would appear that a dominant basketball program is about to experience a drop-off that no one could have envisioned last March when the team accepted the trophy for its third consecutive state title.

Let’s face it.   St. Mary’s is turning over the keys to a Ferrari… that has run out of gas.

(Photo: St. Mary’s High School)