AURORA | As much as coaching in the East Metro Athletic Conference seemed somewhat predictable for most of his time at Aurora Central, new Gateway boys basketball coach Ian Calvert expects things to be different this time around.
Calvert stepped down following the 2015-16 season, having led the Trojans for nearly a decade — with 150-71 record and postseason trips every year — and spent the majority of the time sparring with coach Shawn Palmer and Rangeview for league supremacy.
Calvert’s Aurora Central team came away with league championships four times in that span, but he takes over a Gateway program that has rarely finished even in the top half of the league standings since legendary coach Jeff Sweet departed after the 2010-11 season.
“For nine years, I felt like I’d wake up every morning and either Aurora Central or Rangeview would be league champion,” Calvert told the Sentinel. “This is going to be a different experience for me. I’m looking forward to the challenge and to build something.
“It’s definitely buildable here.”
In the seven seasons since Sweet stepped down following an outstanding two-decade run at Gateway, the boys basketball program has had three head coaches (including one for two stints), finished below .500 and missed the playoffs every season and come in no better than fifth in the final EMAC standings.
The Olys were noticeably improved in 2017-18 as they posted a 9-14 record with a 5-5 EMAC league mark under former coach Jason Dixon. They might have finished over .500, but three losses by six points or fewer prevented that.
Calvert arrives in a much different situation than the one he inherited at Aurora Central, when he came on in the wake of the departure of Colorado coach legend Bob Caton, who had led the Trojans to the Class 5A state championship game the season before.
“The most exciting thing for me is there is a lot less pressure coming into this job,” Calvert said. “I was following a state championship game team at Central, so I don’t know if I ever got out of that mindset of maintaining and got into the mindset of building.
“This is a build and whatever this ends up being is on me.”
Though the Olys graduate a senior group that includes Michkaleke “Man-Man” Baker, two of the club’s top-three leading scorers expect to return in senior-to-be Noah Harrison and junior-to-be D.J. Wilson expect to be back.
A handful of other juniors who saw regular time should also return and there appears to be some talent at the freshmen level as well according to Calvert.
Asked what he learned in his time away from the bench, Calvert said he would approach this coaching job with more patience in all aspects.
“If we’re not doing things right, I don’t have to lose my mind,” he said. “I’m still going to be true to myself. I’m a fiery, animated kind of guy, but I’m going to have more patience. I’m recognizing that wins and losses don’t define every success, it’s really about learning to be successful.
Calvert also gets to coach at the same school as his brother Taylor for the second time.
They both coached at Aurora Central for a time and now will be together again at Gateway, which hired Taylor as head football coach prior to the 2017 season.
Gateway basketball is under totally new directly, as Rob Varner — whose time as the school’s athletic director comes to an end at the conclusion of the school year — takes over the girls basketball team as head coach.
The school has found a replacement for Varner in the AD position as well in John Arledge, a former coach and teacher at Palisade High School.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Sentinel Prep Sports