By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Denair girls turn over new leaf with new head coach
Denair girls bball
Cheyenne Rutherford of Denair tries to get past Sydney Peterson of Hilmar in the second quarter of Wednesdays home loss. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

The Denair High girls basketball program has been in a decade-long downslide, accumulating zero winning seasons in that 10 year span. Enter Mike Turpin as the Coyotes new head coach. The future already looks bright for the Coyotes after the team's best start since before the 2004-05 season.


With preseason just underway, Denair won its first two contests before losing to Hilmar on Wednesday. After outscoring their first two opponents 110 to 23, however, the improvement of the team is obvious.


Turpin brings his 37 years of experience at the Division I level as well as coaching at the collegiate level to the Denair program, which has never been a witness to anything compatible to his ability to bring out the best in a player and the team.


“The hard thing is I implemented an offense that is a whole system with the defense as well,” Turpin said. “At first the girls couldn't dribble, shoot or even pass and it was pretty bad, but I have already seen the improvement in the few weeks that I have been here and if we just keep it up it will be great.”


The scheme in which Turpin has implemented is an up tempo style of defense which is almost identical to a full court press, used by St. Mary's of Stockton.


With the help of an old friend, St. Mary's head basketball coach, Turpin was taught the techniques and ideals and has brought it to the Coyotes to breathe fresh life into the program.


“Nobody practices at the intensity that we play. We are nonstop in your face on defense and we don't allow anybody to move or breathe,” said Turpin. “If they call fouls, then they do that's not a worry. If we keep the defense on it, if we run the defense right, we don't need an offense.”


Turpin takes over a program that has not won more than 11 games since the 2004-05 season and  really struggled to find an identity.


“I told the girls that we would start a spring and summer program and do some travel ball as well, and if they were up for it and ready to learn then we could see some success,” said Turpin of the changes. “Obviously, the girls are buying into it with different results and hard work and they seem excited.”


The Coyotes look to be well balanced from top to bottom but only return three seniors in Samantha McVeigh, Ashley Ramaley and Breanna Mundello, who are the undoubted leaders of the team.


“It is balanced but I have two seniors in Samantha and Ashley who run everything,” Turpin said. “Before we even started I met with them and I told them it's their team and to set rules and they made it up and I am trying to teach them responsibility as well.”


With the addition of four sophomores and one freshman the young, yet talented, Coyotes look to be a promising team in the years to come.


Sophomore Kitie Hernandez averaged over 17 points per game in the first two contests of the year and with Wanda Elliot and Eva Varni the guard position is getting some early experience.


“I have a lot of young players, but that is how they are going to learn which is by competing at the highest level,” said Turpin. “Next year it will be their league as a young team. I don't think anybody expected our sophomores to step up and play this way so quickly — it's exciting.”


For Denair it will be an exciting year, but parents should also expect for their kids to see extensive playing time as with Turpin everyone is involved and everyone plays.


“We do five people rotations every three minutes and everybody gets to play and give 100 percent and it keeps going,” he added. “It's exciting. It's fun and everybody likes it. The Denair girls will play hard they will never quit and always battle, you can't teach that.”


Denair will host Stone Ridge Christian at 5:30 p.m. Monday.