Neither did Mark Senteney.
Two head coaches who once shared the same bench for six years at Capital High School came together again on Tuesday night. It was fate that pitted the two against each other in the Pueblo Pavilion Wellness Center as Cole make his head boys basketball coaching debut for Santa Fe Indian School in a season-opening matchup with the Jaguars.
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It was Capital who took care of business, though, as it blitzed the Braves for an 81-43 win. Meanwhile, the coaching staffs on both benches carried on with their “business as usual” approach, but there was a hint of awkwardness to the whole affair.
“I guess it’s weird if you focus on it too much,” Cole said. “The way we approach our job is to be as professional as you can be.”
Senteney deflected the attention away from the coaching matchups.
“I think it was about our kids and our program and they were about their kids and their program,” Senteney said. “I was very proud of Santa Fe Indian in that they competed very well and I would expect nothing less from a Zack Cole team.”
If anybody would know that, it would be Senteney. He and Cole were assistants under Ben Gomez while at Capital from 2003-2009, where they helped the Jaguars to a Class AAAA state championship and two runner-up finishes. But it’s also the place where this Capital reunion took an awkward turn.
After a disappointing 16-14 record in 2008-09, Gomez let Senteney go a week after the season and moved Cole into Senteney’s top assistant post. That move lasted all of one week, when Gomez was fired. Cole and Senteney applied for the opening, and Senteney was hired.
Cole spent time at Los Alamos and Northern New Mexico College before being hired in May at SFIS to take over a program that went 0-27 a season ago. He brought Gomez with him as his top assistant, as well as Chris Lamoreaux, who played on the 2004 championship team and was an assistant under Senteney for two seasons.
Hence, the awkwardness.
But all of that went out the window once the Jaguars (1-0) won the tipoff. They proceeded to hit their first four shots to take a 13-7 lead after Christian Martinez’s 3-pointer with 4 minutes, 53 seconds left in the opening quarter.
That was a part of a 17-3 run that gave Capital a 25-10 lead by the end of the quarter and marked some of their best basketball of the night. Martinez had three assists during that stretch and senior forward Mike Lopez had a couple more as the Jaguars showed great rapport, the kind that makes them a contender in AAAA.
“We’ve just been playing hard and playing unselfish,” Martinez said. “It’s been like this since the summer and even before that.”
But the Braves made a short run to open the second quarter, thanks to some smart strategy handed to them by their coaches. Within the opening moments of the second, Lopez and 6-foot-5 center Taylor Martinez picked up their second and third fouls, respectively. Both sat on the bench for the rest of the half.
SFIS struck quickly with a pair of free throws from Justin Aguino and a 3-pointer by Leewayne Nieto to trim the margin to 25-15 at 6:36 of the quarter. It was one of the small victories the Braves could take away with them.
“It’s mindset we want to change with our boys,” Cole said. “You have to play basketball and you have to be the aggressor, you can’t be the aggressed. It was nice to see there for those few minutes, and they went right at them. They had that attack mode button.”
So did Capital, though, and it’s much more polished. The Jaguars used a small lineup to push the tempo and unsettled the Braves. Capital managed four steals during an 18-7 run that upped the margin to 43-23 on Michael Sanders layup with 1:19 left.
“Our small lineup did well, especially with on-the-ball pressure,” Senteney said. “They sure did seem to like it and it’s one of those keys — to get the running game going because you jump on teams and keep them off-balance.”