Monday, September 5, 2011

A blog favorite gets a new gig in Arizona

I'm going way back in the history of the ol' blog here. Hopefully, you remember Mario Malaby, a System aficionado from Phoenix who formerly coached the junior varsity boys' team at Alhambra HS. I say "formerly" because Coach Malaby has moved on from that job to a new one, and this is pretty exciting news: he has been given the task of starting a program at the school where he teaches, Metro Tech HS, also in Phoenix.

Oh, and yes, he's going to run The System. How could he not?

There will be challenges, of course, as there are anytime something is new. Things coaches at established programs take for granted, such as scheduling some open gym before the season. That posed a bit of a problem for Coach Malaby.

"I got started with a schedule and then stopped. I realized I don't even have a basketball yet!" he told me earlier this week on the phone. "I figured I'd better develop an infrastructure here before I got too complicated."

That shouldn't take too long. Coach Malaby is one of the most determined and passionate people I ever have had the pleasure of speaking with, even if our friendship is based on a few phone calls and some e-mails. He's a huge fan of the "Rocky" movies, even going so far as to joke about using a line from one of those films during his job interview.

At first, Coach Malaby wasn't sure he wanted the job. He will have the issues of starting from scratch, and since the team is new, the schedule will be sort of piecemeal, with Metro Tech placed in a division with charter schools in the area. The Knights will have to wait a while to face some of the top talent in the area on a consistent basis.

Still, Coach Malaby said he couldn't turn down this opportunity.

"The AD approached me and I was vaguely interested," he said. "You want to play against the best, even if you get your headed pounded in. But then I thought, 'How many times am I going to have the chance to start a program from scratch?' You have to take the chance.

"I had a really good interview. I was really encouraging, because I was able to come up with a five-year plan to sell myself and my ideas. I was not shy. I said we are going to run, we're going to press and we're going to score. I'm going to push the ball.

"I think I got the job simply because of what I said. I talked about what is most important. At the beginning, wins and losses don't really matter, it's all about effort and keep going forward. Or some line I got off 'Rocky.'"

Whatever he said worked. Coach Malaby will have a bit of a hybrid approach to his version of The System, running pure "Grinnell" on the break, while mixing in some Paul Westhead/Loyola Marymount offensive schemes as well. On defense, he likely will run a press developed by noted coach Vance Walberg, who also is credited with creating the "Dribble, Drive, Motion" offense widely used at the NCAA Division I level.

"What I love about the Walberg press is there is no press-breaker for it, and it's not hard to teach," Coach Malaby said. "I'm a big proponent of using something like that."

Practice begins Oct. 22 for Metro Tech, and with the basketballs now ordered, Coach Malaby can look forward to what the season holds.

"I'm excited, because I know our league is not that tough, so I think we can have some initial success with The System, having a chance to compete against some lower-level teams," he said. "We're the only public school in the league. If I can raise enough money, I'm hopeful we can get in some tournaments and play against anywhere from the eight to 12 of the best schools in the state. That's what I'm hopeful for."

I have no doubt Coach Malaby will be able to accomplish whatever he sets his mind to. Even if he does need some help from time-to-time from Rocky Balboa.

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