The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Isler returns to Clovis as boys basketball coach

 

Christopher Cook

Jaden Isler has been named the new coach for the Clovis High boys basketball team. Isler, a former Wildcat player and the son of former coach J.D. Isler, went 93-18 over four seasons at Elida.

CLOVIS — When the Clovis High Class of 2008 holds its 10-year reunion this summer, nobody will be asking Jaden Isler what he's doing these days.

They already know. Isler will try to do as a coach what he barely missed doing as a player - put a boy's basketball championship banner in the Rock Staubus Gymnasium rafters for the first time since 1979.

Isler, the Wildcats' all-time leader in assists and No. 4 career scorer, was announced Thursday morning as the new coach for the boys basketball program his late father, J.D. Isler, ran for 10 seasons.

The 28-year-old Isler succeeds Scott Robinson, who resigned in late April.

Isler brings a 93-18 record and four state championships coaching the Elida girls, and he is the reigning New Mexico girls coach of the year by USA Today High School Sports.

It's quite a resume already for a prep coach who never imagined being one.

"My plan was to stay in college coaching. My first year out, I was a grad assistant at Wayland Baptist. I guess God had a different plan for me. I ended up at Elida, had an amazing run there. I had some really tough girls. I didn't see leaving. I've been offered jobs before, almost every year I've been there.

"When the Clovis job came open, that was something that was special to me. I wanted an opportunity and a challenge to go into Clovis and make the school I played for and the city I played for to be a consistent contender. It was a chance I couldn't pass up."

Isler was one of five selected to interview for the position, and was offered the job Wednesday night by Clovis Superintendent Jody Balch.

"He interviewed very well," Balch said. "He had a plan from the little bitty guys all the way to varsity. He described his plan in detail, and what he'd need from the district."

Isler said he had support from Elida from his first day as head coach - a job thrust upon him when his father died in a car accident in January 2015 - and that made it difficult to leave even with the opportunity Clovis presented.

The hardest part of Isler's day was telling his Tigers players he was moving on, and understanding their feelings because the coach who recruited him to McMurry University left for another position one year later.

"They didn't have to offer a 24-year-old kid the head coaching job when my dad passed away," Isler said. "They gave me a shot to show what I can do. Later on, they gave me a shot as athletic director. They gave me an opportunity and had my back at all times. I don't think that happens everywhere.

"I have a special bond with those girls. You don't have championship teams without having that close of a relationship. I feel like they are my daughters. I knew they would be hurting, even though it's a mature group of girls. I think they understood the opportunity. I told them it's OK to be mad and hate me right now; those are normal feelings, and it's OK to have them."

The Wildcats have had five consecutive losing seasons, but have made the Class 6A playoffs the last two seasons under Robinson.

"I thought Coach Robinson did a heck of a job," Isler said. "It's hard to jump into a program and win right away, no matter what your talent is. I want to commend him on the job he did, and I know how good of a coach he is."

Isler said his biggest keys are to put out a team that plays with passion every night and create a style of play that's fun to play and watch.

Isler's senior season with the Wildcats ended in a gut punch - a 73-71 loss to District 4-5A rival Hobbs in the 2008 Class 5A title game. The Eagles represented the only losses in a 29-2 season, and there's always been a desire for atonement.

"I felt like we were the better team when I played there, and I feel like the Clovis community deserved a championship," Isler said. "I felt like I let them down as one of the leaders. Looking back, it feels like it hasn't been finished yet. I would love to give the community a reason to rally around this team like they did with my team.

"It may not happen in one year and it may not happen in my career, but that's my goal. It's been a long time since '79."

 

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