Former Mean Moose comes home to coach
ALAMOSA — There is a new attitude in the Alamosa High School girl’s basketball program and his name is Edwin Mondragon. The former Mean Moose athlete, who is best known for being an undersized starting center for the 2001 state championship football team, was recently tabbed as the head coach of the girl’s basketball team.
Mondragon, who has been around the game since he shadowed his older brother Clint during his playing days, is anxious and excited to begin his first opportunity as a head coach. There may not be a great deal of expectations for the Mean Moose next season, but Mondragon is intent on setting goals and lofty expectations.
Clint Mondragon is now the athletic director and head boy’s basketball coach at Del Norte High School.
“I was excited to get back into basketball,” Mondragon said. “I was working in Alamosa and it was a chance to get back into it and a chance for me to get my first head coaching job.
“I’m excited from what I saw last year even though they had a tough time. It’s a program that I think I can build, not in one or two years, but down the road. The girls kept playing hard, had the ability to make plays and they were physical.
“I’ve always liked to play tough defense, which for me, is the cornerstone of the program.”
Mondragon was able to get the Mean Moose to team camps and get a first-hand glimpse of what the future.
“I’m impressed with how hard the kids worked,” Mondragon said. “We had kids from all different levels putting in the time and really focusing on what we’re asking and being coachable. The big deal for us is that we went into camp with a couple of goals and the kids worked very hard toward those goals.
“The three things we wanted to focus on were being physical, being aggressive on defense and being patient on offense. The girls did a great job in every game and scrimmage all along on focusing in on those three things.”
The fact that Alamosa is dropping down to Class 3A in basketball is simply icing on the cake for the first-year head coach.
“For some of the programs it helped a lot,” he said. “For us, it didn’t do us any huge favors. The league we’re going down into is very tough and although I know we won’t have to travel as much, but it doesn’t mean that we get vacations either.
“We’re coming into a league where last year two teams finished pretty high at the end of the season. Centauri is an established program. Kids start in that program from the time they’re very little and spend all their time preparing for high school.
The Intermountain League certainly won’t be a cakewalk for the Mean Moose. Pagosa Springs is one of the top teams in the classification, while Centauri will be a formidable foe by January. Monte Vista is no slouch either, while Bayfield remains a tough place to play no matter how talented the Wolverines are each season.
“We have teams in our league that win tournament games. If you’re able to compete with the top teams in this league then you have the preparation to be successful after that.”
The one thing in Mondragon’s favor is that he and his staff will have time to prepare for games unlike the old days in the South-Central League. Monday was usually a pre-game practice for the Mean Moose as was Thursday - Tuesday and Friday games being the norm.
“We’re going to have time to put things in a few days before rather than just the day before,” Mondragon said. “We’ll have time to make the adjustments you need to before it’s time to play.
“It’s easier for the kids too. They’re not missing half a day of class on a Tuesday and getting back in the middle of the night and being at school the next morning. It’s an obstacle the kids have had to overcome since we’ve been in the South-Central League.”
Another big plus for Alamosa will be having both the girl’s and boy’s teams playing at the same venue for league games.
“We’ll get crowds when we travel and we’ll get rivalries built up again,” the coach said. “When you’re traveling 15 miles down the road people take things pretty seriously and that intensity carries over to every part of it.
“It’ll only take one round through the league before you have the rivalries established once again. And now we’ll have a chance to pack to gyms, which is something for a lot of girl’s home games that we don’t always get.”
Look for the Mean Moose to pick up the pace next season as well. While defense is and will always be a priority for Mondragon, he intends to apply the pressure on the defense offensively as well.
“Coming into the summer we were prepared to look at our opportunities and what girls we had and what their capabilities were,” Mondragon said. “After seeing what we saw at the camps this summer, we have the girls that are able to make the plays so that we can keep it simple and we can run basic offenses allowing them the opportunity to make plays when they come up rather than having them run set plays all the time.
Defensively, Mondragon’s not quite prepared to reveal his hand just yet, but promises to apply pressure early and often.
“Seeing what we had at camp, our kids were aggressive enough that we can use a variety of different defenses,” the coach said. “Our biggest thing is we’ll have to be versatile on defense.
“We play some teams that do a lot of different things on offense and we want to be able to make them work rather than us having to play right into their hand. We want to have a situation where the shots they take are forced, so we want to apply that pressure.”
Mondragon is homegrown and here for the long haul. He intends to see the program prosper in good time.
“In three years I see this program back to a level where we are fighting for a league championship every year,” he said. “To get there it’s going to take buying in from the younger kids and so far they’re show that they’re willing to show up to the weight room in the mornings and they’re willing to come in and play hard in the evenings during the summer and get that investment in so that by the time they’re juniors and seniors they have so much invested they will be able to compete at a high level."
It will be exciting.