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Mike Kluk has at least one advantage over most coaches taking over a basketball program: the chance to warm up.
Kluk was named the full-time head coach of Los Alamos’ boys basketball program Wednesday morning, getting the “interim” tag dropped from his title from last season.
In January, Los Alamos head coach Fil Dominguez left the program abruptly, citing family reasons and the health of his wife. With Dominguez’s departure, Kluk was installed and coached throughout the Hilltoppers’ District 2-4A season.
Now, as the head coach for the entire 2014-15 season, Kluk said he’s ready for the challenge.
“I don’t think we’re going to change a whole lot,” he said. “We’ve got two assistant coaches who have said they’re coming back, so the coaching staff’s not going to change much. With that, I can feel better about it, so let’s start getting ready.”
Los Alamos won just two games in 26 outings last season, with Dominguez earning one of those wins and Kluk the other. That win came early in district play when the Hilltoppers upset the Capital Jaguars 40-38 Jan. 31 at home.
Had Los Alamos been able to keep up momentum from that game, it might have been able to work its way into contention. Unfortunately, the team’s next two games were blowout losses and any mojo Los Alamos might have had going at that point was lost.
Prior to being named the head coach of the program, Kluk had spent several years in both the boys and girls basketball programs as an assistant, starting in 1996. Before that, he was a player at the junior college level in Texas.
Kluk said the process for applying for the job which he held for more than a month during the season wasn’t unlike the process for other coaching hires, including going through a regular interview process.
“Evidently, I didn’t screw it up,” Kluk joked. “That was justification, for me, when I got the nod.
Now that he’s on the job, the first item on his agenda is to make preparations for the program’s offseason workouts. Kluk said he met with the high school’s athletic trainer Mick Matuszak to set a weights and conditioning schedule for an upcoming summer regimen.
Los Alamos has struggled for the past several seasons, since the departure of head coach Alan Kirk and current University of New Mexico standout Alex Kirk.
Since that time, Los Alamos has made the playoffs only once, in 2011-12 under Dominguez, and has won just 20 games in four seasons, half of those prior to its last playoff appearance.
While there is plenty of work to be done, not the least of which is filling in the holes left by seven departing seniors off last year’s team, most of which played significant minutes, Kluk said he’s optimistic about the Hilltoppers’ outlook.
“We only had three juniors in the whole program last year, which is good and bad,” he said. “But the good news is we’ve got a lot of young talent on the way up, including some big guys. We’ve got our work cut out for us. We’ve still got to develop our guards who can get the ball up the floor.”
Los Alamos’ 2014-15 schedule hasn’t yet been released. Los Alamos will move up to Class 5A next season, although the bulk of 5A will be comprised of 4A teams from this year.