What direction will St. Mary’s girls hoops go?
Will the dynasty deteriorate?
Curtis Ekmark’s departure as St. Mary’s girls basketball coach late last week could send Arizona’s high school basketball scene in two vastly different directions: straight ahead or any-which way.
While Ekmark now has a chance to build a Nike-sponsored club organization in the Valley and watch his son, Andrew (Phoenix Country Day) and his daughter, Courtney (who’ll stay at St. Mary’s for her senior year), which direction St. Mary’s goes from here will affect the rest of Division I.
If the Knights follow the blueprint that led to Ekmark’s hiring in the first place (a club coach who’s not a teacher) then it’s possible St. Mary’s — which won three consecutive state championships and a mythical national championship under Ekmark — could continue to be the most dominant program in Arizona, regardless of sport.
Though Ekmark’s a very good coach who’s affable and extremely-approachable, critics and coaching peers pointed to the program being little more than a club-team juggernaut in high school uniforms because of Ekmark’s influence (even though it’s a private school and most of the kids were excellent academically).
The more 40-point victories and championships the Knights piled up, the more “defeatist” attitudes emerged from the rest of Division I, a sort of mild resignation to the idea everyone was basically playing for second place in the state the past few years.
If the Knights go in a completely different direction, and factor in the number of top-notch players who’ve graduated in the past two years, then the rest of Arizona has a glimmer of hope that competitive standing will find balance again as it was pre-2010.
Most followers see that as a good thing for Arizona.
One problem for those advocates: St. Mary’s athletic director Greg Fahrendorf said a hire is “likely to happen in the next few weeks,” and while “a teacher-coach combination would be optimal, we currently do not have any open teaching positions.”
As with most coaching hires, teaching jobs (or lack thereof) can have a huge impact on the decision-making process, and if Ekmark has influence on the next coaching hire — which is possible, like it or not — the Knights’ program could continue to be competitively untouchable.