Sanchez returns home to coach Lady Highlanders
The Eureka Springs school board accepted the resignation of girls basketball coach Adam Brothers and hired Ryan Sanchez as the new coach at its meeting on Monday, June 11.
Sanchez is a 2014 Eureka Springs High School graduate and played three years of college basketball at Avila University in Kansas City before serving as an assistant for the menís basketball team last semester.
"Getting to come back to Eureka Springs is a dream come true," Sanchez said. "Some people dream of getting to come back to where they graduated all their life and never get that chance. I got that chance right out of college. This is a great opportunity for me."
Sanchez played at Bentonville High School during his sophomore and junior years. He also played on the Arkansas Wings AAU team.
"I went to Bentonville to take care of my grandparents," Sanchez said. "I did the big-school thing. Played at Bentonville High School. Here, it's a community. It's a family. You know everybody by their first and last name. You know their mother, brother, uncle and grandmother. I couldn't have it any other way. You can drive down the highway and wave to every single car. It does have its negatives, but it takes a village to raise a child."
When Sanchez came back to Eureka Springs for his senior year, he was coached by boys coach Brian Rambo.
"At Bentonville, during my sophomore and junior year, that is when you physically mature," Sanchez said. "Coming back down to 2A to play, it's a lot less physical. The point guards in 7A are 6-3, 180. The point guards here, 5-7, 120. Coach Rambo and I had a very close relationship. He was easy to talk to because he knew I had a lot of experience playing basketball. It was almost a father-son relationship. There were no questions of what was going on in the locker room. That was a very mature team."
Sanchez has maintained a relationship with Rambo over the last four years and he looks forward to learning from him over the next several years.
"In my first year of being a head coach I am going to learn a lot," Sanchez said. "And I'm going to need that mentor right next to me. Since I graduated, we have talked at least monthly. He would always ask how basketball season is going. Keep the gym open for workouts during breaks. We have a very good relationship and I appreciate that."
Rambo looks forward to helping Sanchez during his first year coaching basketball.
"It's going to be a great experience for both of us," Rambo said. "Ryan is a fine young man. He was a great player for me. Being able to coach him as a player, follow him through college and now have him on staff, it's come full circle. It's a blessing for both of us. He is very excited for the opportunity. He has played college basketball, he has played at the highest level of AAU ball, but it's a little different when you put a whistle around your neck. I will have to mentor him a little bit, but he is very receptive of that. It's a great opportunity for our kids."
Sanchez has been blessed to play under many great coaches, including Rodney Perry at Avila University. Perry left Avila after Sanchezís sophomore year to become an assistant coach at Oral Roberts University. Bill Sloan spent time as the head coach of Kansas City Community College before coming to Avila University during Sanchezís junior year. While playing for the Arkansas Wings, Sanchez was coached by Dave Stallman, who played under Norm Stewart at the University of Missouri. Stallman is now an assistant at the College of the Ozarks.
"At Avila, we ran the spread," Sanchez said. "I was a big part of introducing that to coach Sloan. He had his style of offense half the time and then we had the spread. I know that's what the boys do here. On defense, you can't impede a playerís movement. It's better to already be in a gap to discourage any drives. Emily Lovejoy, Gracie Lester and Megan Holloway are very physical. I think we can get up the floor. Draw a lot of fouls getting to the rim and be tough to stop on offense."
As a player and assistant coach, Sanchez helped Avila University to some very good seasons.
"During my sophomore year, we were ranked as high as 20th in the nation, which was unheard of because Avila University isn't known for basketball," Sanchez said. "It was a high mark in their history because it was their 100th year. I was able to graduate early, so that last semester I didn't play basketball. I served as an assistant. I ran all the group and individual workouts for the menís basketball team. I was their academic checker. I monitored that for the coach so he wouldn't have to worry about that. I led recruiting visits and drove the van to away games."
The Lady Highlanders finished the 2017-18 season 6-23. Sanchez knows it won't be easy to turn things around, but he believes it can be done.
"We are going to have to rejuvenate the program," Sanchez said. "I have talked to coach Stallman about bringing some of his college girls down here to play with our players. You need some of that live camaraderie and outside influences. I have a player coming down, Kelly Clarke, who was a part of the 2007-08 state tournament team that my sister was a part of. Kelly went on to play at Grinnell in Iowa. Her state tournament team, that was the first time they had made it to state in 30 years."
Sanchez said there are a group of juniors who have the potential to be very good next year.
"Emily Lovejoy, Gracie Lester, Megan Holloway, Grayson Ertel, they all have the potential to do great things," Sanchez said. "We can do a lot of great things this first year. It's going to be a process, but I'm eager to start it."
Sanchez grew up in a Christian home, as his parents were pastors at Full Faith Ministries for 18 years. They moved to Wyoming last October, but they, along with his eight brothers and sisters, have been a major influence on his life.
"It's a big family, but I like it that way," Sanchez said. "They have made a ton of sacrifices for me and I can't thank them enough."
Brothers had been the athletic director for the past two seasons, but Rambo will be taking back over for the coming season.
"I feel like we are in a good situation right now athletically," Rambo said. "We have some good people in place. I am very involved with our school and our community. It's exciting for our school and it's exciting for me."
Sanchez will also be coaching the track and field team and will teach physical education as well. Sanchez is engaged to Ramboís daughter, Hailei, and they are planning on getting married next summer.