By Dave Wagner
Longtime Clovis High boys basketball coach J.D. Isler is returning to the coaching arena in the area.
Isler was hired recently to be a science teacher and girls basketball coach at Elida, which won Class B state champions in each of the four years the NMAA had the classification.
“I’m real excited about the team,” said Isler, 52, who coached the Wildcats from 2001-11. “I’ve been real impressed. We’re pretty young, but we’re pretty athletic and I think we’ll be able to play the (pressing) style I want to play.”
The Lady Tigers did not lose a game to a Class B opponent during their run under Dan Howard, a contract coach who resigned the position earlier this spring.
“Coach Howard did a really good job,” Elida principal/athletic director Larry Gregory said. “We were undefeated for four years in Class B. I don’t know of many coaches with that kind of record.”
Most of the top players from last year’s squad are back in 2014-15.
“We’re very excited,” Gregory said. “We feel very fortunate, and I think he’ll have some good girls to coach. We just want to continue the tradition.”
Isler has had a wide range of coaching experience, coaching college men at New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs for two seasons and McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, for one year, and college women for three seasons at NCAA Division I Texas-Arlington.
He also coached Grady’s girls to two Class 1A state finals, winning the title in 1986, and coached Grady’s boys from 1992-99, winning one state title and finishing runnerup three times.
“To be honest, I coach them all the same,” Isler said. “What helps me is I’ve coached at all levels.”
After leading McMurry to the NCAA Division III national tournament in 2011-12, Isler stepped aside to help care for his father, who was ill for cancer and later died.
He said he’s spent about a year trying to get the family’s ranching business in order.
“The last six months, I’ve really gotten the itch to coach again,” he said.
The Lady Tigers will be in revamped Class 1A this season, facing their top rivals from Class B as well as some of the better teams in the former 1A.
“We understand the competition will be a little bit better,” he said.