Former MVP coach takes over Mingus girls hoops

Mingus head girls basketball coach Paul Ventura directs players a defensive drill during Wednesday night's open gym. VVN/James Kelley

Mingus head girls basketball coach Paul Ventura directs players a defensive drill during Wednesday night's open gym. VVN/James Kelley

Mingus Union girls basketball’s new head coach is a familiar face, especially to his players.

Former Mountain View Preparatory girls basketball head coach Paul Ventura was hired over the summer to take over the Marauders’ program.

“We’re just really excited to get somebody of his caliber to step in there and take over that program,” Mingus athletic director Yancey DeVore said. “I think he’s gonna take it to a whole new level.”

Ventura lead Mingus Union’s open gyms over the summer traveled to Sedona and Flagstaff as a volunteer before taking over for Frank Nevarez.

“So when I decided to step down, I thought that the next coach should be him but he had to go through the process at the school, which he did, and he was just offered the job,” Nevarez said.

Nevarez, a lead pastor at Emmanuel Fellowship C3 Church in Cottonwood, became too busy to pull double duty.

DeVore said Nevarez helped with the transition too.

Hiring Ventura provided some stability to a program that has seen a lot of leadership changes in recent years.

“I think that’s really important, especially when you’re talking about teenagers, they’re only in our high school for a four year window and any time that we can get somebody with some consistency in there and he knows some of the girls coming in, some of the younger girls in that transition and he was there over the summer, so the more time that we can have establishing those relationships I think the more effective I think our coaches can be in those professional relationships,” DeVore said about Ventura’s previous experience with the current Marauders.

Ventura said that familiarity was great.

“It was a little bit smoother too, a lot of times a coach leaves and a new coach shows up and it’s that big transition and the kids feel it and because I was already here and going to the summer league and stuff, the older girls especially, they felt good about it because I was already around,” Ventura said.

Ventura established the program at MVP, which won the Verde Valley Small Schools championship last season.

He expects four or five of the MVP players from last year’s team to play on the freshman team. He said a lot of them are really good at soccer and at the high school level those sports are in the same season unlike in middle school and a couple of the MVP alumni went to Sedona Red Rock.

He said the key to their success there was consistency.

“Especially when it was started from scratch six years ago, we had nothing to go off of, it was everything new and so getting it public, so that kids knew it was fun, they wanted to be a part of it and the consistency of having me every year with the same mentality, the same strategy, the same philosophy, that’s huge,” Ventura said.

Having a similar philosophy to Nevarez was important to Ventura.

The Marauders have now had three head coaches in four years and have had six this decade.

When Nevarez took over, they didn’t have open gym during the offseason.

“I’m their third head coach in four years,” Ventura said. “So there are seniors right now that have had three coaches with me, if they played varsity that whole time and so that’s rough. Coach Frank had it going in the right direction, that’s why I agreed to work with him this year: we had the same ideas, the same philosophy, he had already started taking those steps. It’s a culture change when you want to make something successful. The football program has a culture here and our basketball program has to be that way too, where kids expect to win and they expect it to be challenging and that each year we’re getting better and it takes dedication to do that.”

So far the Marauders have impressed Ventura.

“I think every day they get better,” Ventura said. “There’s some girls that were coming in as incoming freshmen that were real rough, real raw but want to work hard. You could see huge progression over June to July and then July to August, just basic ball handling, where they could not dribble through their legs, they struggled just dribbling and now they’re going through their legs and being able to do some more advanced things and the girls that were already skilled getting better and really focusing on the things that me and my coaches have emphasized, being really, really good on defense, being athletic and then we of course work on the offensive fundamentals but if we play really good defense, we win basketball games, that’s what we’re focused on.”

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