Editor’s note: Wade Fraze was named N.M. Preps’ Class 3A girls coach of the year last month.
Wade Fraze, a longtime Portales assistant, jioned a different club this year — state champion. Fraze recently completed his first year leading Portales, but he has served as head coach for four schools. Fraze helped lead Portales to its first state championship since 2006 with an overtime win over then-undefeated and top-seeded Shiprock.
You’d put in for the Portales job on a few different occasions when it became vacant, and didn’t get it until this season. Was there anything that you learned during that time in waiting? I’d been a head coach nine years before that, two years at Dora and at Seagraves, Texas, and Sterling City, Texas. My defensive philosophy was a lot like Clay’s, but I picked up some things from him that really added to what I try to do defensively.
There were other things. I had coached under Brenda before. I just have a mixture of things I’ve learned from different coaches. I played for Jimmy Joe Robinson, did student teaching under J.D. Isler. I just beg, steal and borrow, so I did pick some things up.
When you got the position, you kept a lot of things from your predecessors. What’s one area where you can say this is what you do differently as a coach? It’s really a combination. Any coach, they take things from different people. The conglomerate of what they take is their philosophy
I like to run uptempo, but your kids dictate that. If they’re gifted athletically, it’s easier to press and run uptempo. I want to put pressure on them defensively, and i want to put pressure on them offensively.
John Wooden spent 70 percent of his practices on fundamentals. I think everything is built on that. If you’re not fundamentally sound, nothing else matters.
State tournament excluded, what was your favorite memory of the year? Overall, the group of girls I had were just exceptional. That’s from the first day they named me as head coach and I had the meeting with the kids up to the last minute with the kids. If you exclude the state tournament, that would be the district championship loss at Lovington. The character of the kids, the way they bought into my system and my philosophy. We were complimented tournament after tournament on how the kids conducted themselves, win or lose, and I’m very proud of the girls for that.
Do you have a favorite Brenda Gomez and/or Clay Stout story? They’re both great friends, and I cherish my time with both of them.
My favorite Brenda Gomez story: We’re in the Rio Rancho tournament, and Tara Johnson has just turned over the ball. Brenda’s very mad. The ball comes rolling in front of our bench and Brenda is going to kick it. Brenda barely gets the ball, but her shoe flies off and goes onto the court. Tara sheepishly brings back her shoe. She’s trying not to laugh, but everybody else is laughing, including Brenda.
Clay, we’re at the state tournament. Tense situation; I’m not sure what the year was. Clay and I would normally stay on the bench at halftime and talk about any adjustments. The ramp at The Pit, it’s steep and there’s the different elevation; we’re looking up there and there’s four minutes left. We have to get back to the kids. We sprint up the ramp. Clay starts to talk to the kids and he can’t hardly breathe. It just broke the ice. The kids just laughed and laughed. We came out and played a really good second half. Another time, same game maybe, he’s drawing a play on the whiteboard and a piece of gum falls out of his mouth. He picks it up and puts it back, but Dallas Russell just dies laughing.
How tough will defending the title be? I think next year will be harder. I think it’s harder to stay on top than get on the top. Everybody talked about Lovington, Shiprock and Hope Christian, and we snuck under the radar. We won’t have that luxury; we’ll have a target on our back from day one. And we’re losing some pieces that will be hard to replace. Also, our schedule is gong to be a lot harder; hopefully it will prepared.
— compiledy by staff writer Kevin Wilson