Well, that didn’t last long…
Perry High School just announced the hire of Sam Duane, Jr., a name well-known in basketball circles around Arizona. At Corona del Sol High School in Tempe he became the first big-school coach to win four D-I state boys’ hoops titles in a row, winning 30 straight games at one point in that run, and posted a 33-1 record in his last year in 2014-15.
And then he quit. And on the way out the door said he didn’t know if he would ever return to coaching.
The program was turned over to his assistant, Neil MacDonald, who put up a 15-9 record but was given the No. 1 seed going into the state tournament – only to lose in the quarterfinals to eighth-seeded Sunnyslope High.
Duane’s departure was in mid-April of last year. Now, 11 months later he’s decided he is missing the game.
He said at the time that he was leaving Corona because he wanted to put his time and energy into getting an administration certification that would enable him to move into other facets of education. Now he says he’s just about completed that mission and is ready to return to the bench.
Perry High in Gilbert was happy to oblige. That school had just lost a really good coach and welcomed the opportunity to re-stock the cupboard.
Joe Babinski retired from his head-coaching job at Perry last month after spending 39 years in coaching. He spent seven years at Desert Edge High School in Goodyear and the last four at Perry, where he compiled a 78-34 record.
Babinski posted 26 wins during the 2013-14 seasons and 22 wins the next year, but the Pumas fell off to a 14-10 finish last season. So Duane will have a little work to do – unlike the years he cruised through four straight titles with some of the best talent in the state at Corona.
That included one year when he had the top college recruit on his roster. Marvin Bagley III, the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2018, spent his freshman year playing for the Aztecs and helped them to the fourth crown, with a supporting cast of Division I prospects in the starting line-up.
Duane won’t have that kind of talent to work with next season, and is losing a big chunk of senior leadership as nine players will graduate this year. But it won’t be the first time he has had to start by building a new foundation.
It took him 12 years at Corona to build a dynasty. While Perry may never reach that level of achievement under his tutelage, it’s likely the Pumas will begin working back toward those 20-win seasons.