Seven hundred is just a number. But it’s a huge number when it comes to coaching victories.
Mesa Mountain View’s boys basketball team methodically pounded away at visiting Mesa Westwood Wednesday and came up with a 45-26 triumph in the semifinals of the 5A-I East Valley Region Tournament that notched win No. 700 in the coaching career of coach Gary Ernst.
“I’ve coached a lot of games,” Ernst said. “To be honest I don’t remember the first one. It was against a pretty good team and we were young. We won 16 games that year. The next year we had a lot of kids back and won state. It’s a nice accomplishment.”
Ernst was greeted afterward by family and a number of school and coaching colleagues. Mountain View improved to 24-3 this season and Ernst’s overall record now stands at 700-277. That’s a victory 72 percent of the time. He trails only Dick McConnell, the longtime and now retired coach from Tucson Sahuaro, who has a state best 774 wins.
Ernst has piled up the vast majority of those wins at Mountain View, where he began coaching in 1985. It hasn’t always been a smooth ride.
“The first year here was great,” Ernst said. “The next couple of years I had some parent problems. There was a time I wasn’t sure it was going to work long term.”
Suffice it to say it has with six state titles in Toro red and blue in his tenure, 551 wins at the school.
Wednesday’s win, while not done in thrilling fashion, was accomplished in typical Ernst style. A solid game from start Jordan McLelland (9 points) and reserve play from Tyson and Jackson Lane. They came off the Mountain View bench to add 11 and 10 points, respectively. Tyson hitting three 3s and Jackson one along with stellar defense and rebounding.
“We’re a pretty good defensive team, but when Jackson’s goes on the floor we’re a better defensive team,” Ernst said. “Lately Tyson’s been giving us a lift with his shooting. It’s always important to get contributions from the bench.”
Mountain View’s win advances it to Friday’s region tourney title game against Mesa Red Mountain. Red Mountain knocked off Mesa Dobson, 74-66, in the other semi.