After 12 seasons as the Mesa Community College Men’s Basketball head coach, Sam Ballard has retired. Ballard retires with more than 40 years of coaching between the high school and college level.
Ballard took over as head coach of the Thunderbirds in 2008. Since then he has obtained 223 wins, which ranks second among MCC coaches all-time. In his time at MCC, Ballard won two Region I titles as well as earning the award of ACCAC Coach of the Year twice.
“I know he made an impact on me,” said assistant coach Jimmy Herrera. “I know he’s influenced me as a coach to incorporate some of the things I’ve learned from him as a coach.”
Ballard was widely known as a defense first coach. With how the game is played today, defense isn’t necessarily high on a lot of players’ list of priorities. However, Ballard was able to get his players to want to grind it out on the defensive end.
“In high school I would never take defense seriously, but once I got to Mesa it just changed my whole experience with defense,” said guard BJ Burries, who played for Coach Ballard in 2019.
One of the most impactful things Ballard created in his time at MCC was the Fiesta Bowl Junior College Shootout. This tournament is held at the end of December and brings together countless top ranking junior college teams from around the country for their chance to compete against the best of the best. Players also show off their skills to scouts to possibly earn a scholarship.
“We were fortunate to have Coach Ballard as our head coach for so many years. His team’s successes are a reflection of how hard he works as a coach and how much he cares for the game of basketball and his student-athletes,” said MCC Athletic Director John Mulhern. “ We all wish him good luck in his retirement and in all his future endeavors.”
Interim head coach Jimmy Herrera will lead the team this season, which gets under way in early November. This will be the first season the team will play since 2019-2020 due to the 2020-2021 season being canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.