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Tech varsity girls give veteran coach new challenge

Thirty-one years into her basketball coaching career, Diane Hernandez was ready for a break.

The veteran coach retired as Silverado’s coach after the 2007-08 season. But the lure of the game and working with athletes has pulled her back.

Hernandez, who coached Basic for 17 seasons and Silverado for 14, returns to the varsity bench this season and is hoping to help Tech’s girls find success.

After spending the past five seasons as the Roadrunners’ junior varsity coach, Hernandez will try to turn around a program that last made the postseason in Hernandez’s final season at Silverado.

“I took a year off when I retired, and that was too much,” said Hernandez, who guided the Skyhawks to the Sunrise Region title in her last two seasons and helped the team to six state tournament appearances in 11 years. “I love the game. I was ready to get back in.

“The time off was good because I had said that if I ever got to a point where I wasn’t doing the things I needed to be doing, it was time to get out. I did, but that year that I was out, it was like, ‘I don’t want to sit up here (in the stands); I want to sit on the bench.’ I have to be doing something all the time.”

A phone call from Tech athletic administrator Nick Brockovich and a talk with then Roadrunner head coach Jamie Araiza persuaded Hernandez to come back for the 2009-10 season as the junior varsity coach.

Araiza, Tech’s coach for the past 10 seasons, moved out of state last summer and asked Hernandez to take over.

“It didn’t take me long to realize that this would be a great challenge for me and get me back into the scene,” Hernandez said. “Coaching is a passion of mine. I don’t get tired of it. I love the fundamentals, and I love working with kids.”

After nearly four decades of coaching, Hernandez still communicates easily with her players and earns their respect.

“It’s really great that we have her coaching,” said Tech senior guard Clarissa Szluha, one of the team’s seven returning letter winners. “She has a lot of patience, and she helps us a lot. She knows what to look for.”

The Roadrunners are 8-58 in the past three seasons, including 2-36 in league play.

Last season, Tech finished 5-17 overall and 2-10 in the Sunrise League. Hernandez has a plan to continue the building.

“We have three teams (varsity, junior varsity and freshmen), but all three teams go under the same set of rules and same philosophy,” Hernandez said. “By the time you are in your fourth year, you have played with those philosophies and those people, and that really helps.

“We had a good group of freshmen last year with Jamie, and we encouraged them to stay together and move up together. Most of them came back. We had a larger group of freshmen come out this year. Just keeping them playing for four years is going to be a plus.”

With three starters back and a handful of promising newcomers, Tech may not be quite ready to compete for a league title this season, but a postseason berth is a possibility.

“I encourage the kids to just work hard and do the best they can do,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez isn’t even thinking about another retirement. Energetic during practices, she is where she wants to be.

“There are two things I enjoy doing and nobody can bug me when I’m there, and that’s being on the golf course and being on the basketball bench,” Hernandez said. “Nobody is going to call me on my phone and bother me during those times. That’s a peaceful time for me. Basketball is a stress relief for me. Even though it’s stressful, it’s a stress relief.”

Contact reporter Bartt Davis at bdavis@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5230.

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