Mike Guajardo wasn’t thinking about becoming the permanent boys basketball coach at Pasco High School when he took over the program on an interim basis midway through last season.
But after working with the players and fellow Bulldogs coaches for the final nine games of 2014, Guajardo decided it was time to come back to the program he guided to five Big Nine championships and six state appearances from 1981-2000.
“There’s a big difference (between then and now). Then, I didn’t know what I was going into. This time, I know exactly what I’m going into,” he said.
Pasco athletic director Jake Davis confirmed Monday that Guajardo would be the man to lead the Bulldogs toward a more positive future after winning just one out of 21 games last season.
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“It’s a great day for Pasco. He brings immediate structure and discipline, and at the same time makes it fun for the kids,” Davis said. “Over the winter, we got a snap shot of what he can do for us. We saw our team instantaneously get more competitive, and he laid the groundwork for what we’re looking for moving forward.”
Guajardo graduated his two top scorers from last year — Devauriay Robinson (9.8 points per game) and Jose Correa (8.8 ppg) — but he’s encouraged at the talent he has coming back to the program. Freshmen Isaiah Groce and Jalen Daniels were consistent contributors for the Bulldogs last year.
When he stepped in for Charlie Villanueva, Guajardo noticed a team that had plenty of talent but was missing some key elements. Confidence — or lack of — was a big factor.
“It was just a matter of them getting used to somebody different and a matter of them responding. It was a tough situation for all of us,” Guajardo said. “The way things proceeded until the end of the season, I built some rapport with the kids, and I liked that.
“I recognized there was talent. There was a lot of work to be done, but the kids responded very well at the end.”
Though Pasco went 0-9 under Guajardo to end the season, Mid-Columbia Conference coaches noted an improvement in the team’s play over the second half of last season and attributed a lot of the credit to Guajardo’s dedication to team basketball.
Guajardo, who owns a career record of 273-191 (a .588 winning percentage) over 20 seasons, expects to be much more competitive this year after a full season to prepare.
“As soon as we get together on June 2, that will be the time to get used to the new program, and things will be a little different,” he said. “We’ll use that time to build trust and go out and do the things neccessary to play good basketball.”
Asked about how far he would like the team to go next season, he expects to win more than just a few games.
“We’ve got to believe we can do something next year. It may be unrealistic, but if everything goes as I’d like it to go, I think we can compete,” Guajardo said. “For me, personally, I would be disappointed if we didn’t win half our games.”