By Dave Wagner
Dustin Klafka, who as acting head coach last season led the Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball team to a 13-14 record, has accepted an assistant coaching position at a junior college in his hometown of Levelland, Texas.
An ENMU graduate, Klafka stepped in last year while head coach Dan Buzard was recovering from a cancerous brain tumor discovered over the summer. Klafka and Buzard were named co-coaches of the program in April.
Klafka said he was approached about a position at South Plains Junior College by new Lady Texans coach Michelle Wyatt, who moved up from an assistant’s role after the retirement in June of longtime coach Lyndon Hardin.
South Plains went 31-4 in 2004-05 and finished fourth in the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament, the best season in school history.
Klafka’s wife Missy, a former ENMU player, is also from Levelland. The couple is expecting their second child in March.
“It was just too good an opportunity to pass up,” Klafka said. “My family and I prayed about it, and that was the direction we decided to go.
“It’s always nice to get closer to family. That’s an important part of life to us.”
Buzard said he will take over as head coach, adding that the Zias are trying to fill an assistant coaching position. Graduate assistant Haley (Anderson) White will be back for her second year with the program.
Buzard continues to have some problems with his eyesight after his illness, but said it’s “a little better.”
“That’s one reason you try to get good people surrounding you and being there for you,” he said.
The Zias return five players from last year’s squad, including two starters in senior guard Heather Brown and senior forward Tiana Bryant. Klafka and Buzard said recruiting for next year went well.
“That’s the catch-22 for me,” Klafka said. “I think we’ve done a good job over the last couple of years; I really like the kids we had coming back, and I’m excited about the recruiting class coming in. I hate to leave these kids, but this is an excellent opportunity for me.”
Buzard said he understands Klafka’s decision.
“I told him, ‘Dustin, you’ve got to do what’s best for your family. I’m behind whatever decision you make,’” Buzard said.
ENMU athletic director Mike Maguire was on vacation and could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Klafka was a graduate assistant for the Zias under Wayne Moore from 2000-02, then spent one year as an assistant at Texas A&M-Kingsville before returning to ENMU in the fall of 2003.