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It took just a little over a month for the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys basketball program to find a new head coach.
Thursday, Los Alamos High School’s athletic department announced it had hired Hilltopper assistant coach Fil Dominguez to replace former head coach Matt King.
Dominguez will be the third head coach the Hilltoppers have had in as many years, but he said he plans to adopt much of King’s philosophy, which should give a sense of stability to the program.
“I’m excited, the kids are excited,” said Dominguez, who’s currently on vacation in Denver. “This is a chance to have some continuity. We’ve been playing in the valley and we’ve gotten to see more physical play. That’s the one thing we’ll try to change is to be a little more physical.”
Dominguez spent the 2010-11 season as an assistant coach at Los Alamos. Prior to that, he’d been the head coach at Class 2A McCurdy as well as a head coach at the middle school level.
At McCurdy, Dominguez tried to employ much the same philosophy that the Hilltoppers used under King. The Bobcats were a defensive-oriented team which tried to execute a steady half-court offense, a philosophy not normally employed in the smaller northern New Mexico schools.
McCurdy was in a district with some of the top teams in the north, including Peñasco, Mesa Vista and Questa, all of which were ranked No. 1 in statewide polls at some time during his tenure, that running from 2006-09.
King, who led Los Alamos to a 7-21 record in 2010-11, left unexpectedly in late June to take a job at Clovis High School. Clovis, one of the premier Class 5A teams in the state, went to King to ask if he was interested in the job, vacated by JD Isler after the team posted a 20-3 season record.
To get the job, King beat out an impressive list of coaches who’d also applied, not the least of which was Russ Gilmore, who led the Hobbs Eagles to five state champions between 2000-2008.
King’s departure was unexpected, but Dominguez said he made the correct call when Clovis offered him the post.
“Matt wants (coaching) to be his career and he has to do what’s best for him and his family,” Dominguez said. “I’ll always be loyal to that guy.”
Dominguez said he learned a lot working with King last season and hopes to continue to rebuild the Hilltopper program.
Last season, the Hilltoppers struggled mightily early, but started to turn things around in mid-December, winning two of three games at the Ben Lujan Tournament in Pojoaque. While Los Alamos managed just a fourth place finish in District 2-4A, in both the regular season and the district tournament, it played solid defense against some very good offensive teams and stayed within striking distance in many of those district ballgames.
However, even though the defense played well for much of the year, Los Alamos struggled to put points on the board. It scored as many as 60 points just once the entire season and was held to a season-low 18 points against Pojoaque.
Dominguez said some of the low offensive production could be attributed to a general lack of confidence by many of the team’s players on the offensive side.
During summer workouts, however, Dominguez said he’s seen improvement from several players, most notably forward Bobby Sanders and guard Nate Carver, a 3-point specialist.
“We’ll get some opportunities by putting kids in spots so they can score,” Dominguez said of his offensive plans. “We’ve got pretty much everybody back.”
Dominguez said preseason workouts will resume in about a month. Fundamentals will be the focus between now and the time when basketball officially gets going in early November.