With the 2016-17 basketball season drawing to close earlier this month, post-season awards are in the process of being handed out and as we’ve done in the past Colorado Preps announces their Coaches of the Year in all five classes. And we simply don’t pick the state champion as our coach, we look for leaders who have turned around programs or taken them to levels not seen before.
CLASS 1A: Jeremy Romero - Antonito
This is a very easy choice in our mind as the Trojans made the state tournament for the first time in school history. They rolled through the regular season unbeaten and despite losing both games in Greeley, The Trojans also set a school record with 23 victories. Another state tournament bid could be in the future as several key returnees will be back for Antonito next year.
CLASS 2A: Rich Gerk – Haxtun
After a couple of frustrating years where they were among the most talented teams in 2A, the Bulldogs finally broke through this season with a state tournament appearance. They’ve been a good team for the past couple of years but were unable to break through the rugged District Two tournament against the likes of Yuma, Wray and Akron. Gerk took over the program midway through the 2013-14 season and finished with just five wins. They bumped to eight the next year and up to 21 this year and the consolation trophy with their win over Simla.
CLASS 3A: Mark Engesser – Colorado Springs Christian
Getting one team into the state tournament is a difficult task but the Lions reached the Final Four in both the boys’ and girls’ brackets and both clubs were under the direction of Mark Engesser. We selected him in the girls’ division as the Lions made the state finals before falling short to league rival Lamar in the championship game. Like others on our list today, Engesser has turned around the program rather quickly. Two years ago, the Lions picked up just five wins but jumped to 17 last year before earning 24 victories this season.
CLASS 4A: Kristy Wallner - Rifle
Seeded 13th in the 4A bracket, the Bears earned a hard fought road win over Air Academy and earned a rare berth in the Great 8 for a Western Slope team. The win over the Kadets was their 17th straight on the season and pushed them into the state quarterfinals where they fell short to Windsor. The Bears finished the season at 22-4 which was a five win improvement over the previous year and nine more than the 2013-14 season.
CLASS 5A: Patrick McKiernan – Doherty
After posting just nine wins two years, the Spartans 24 wins this season and made it all the way to the state quarterfinals where the season ended with a loss to eventual state champion Grandview. Along the way, the Spartans also ran the table in the CS Metro winning all 12 conference games to land the championship.