Atomic City Update: Lanse Carter is the perfect hire for LAHS girls basketball

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By Phil Scherer

Longtime college basketball coach Bobby Knight once said, “To be as good as it can be, a team has to buy into what you as the coach are doing. They have to feel you’re a part of them and they’re a part of you.”

I think this quote is particularly relevant right now to Los Alamos High School, and new girls’ head basketball coach Lanse Carter, who is looking to change the culture of the program and once again turn the Hilltoppers into state championship contenders. 

Though he is new to the Los Alamos area, he is anything but a stranger to basketball in northern New Mexico. He has had stints at Capital, Pojoaque, Santa Fe Indian School and Santa Fe High School and has a history of turning programs around in a hurry. 

In 2008 and 2009, he won state championships at Pojoaque, and also took Santa Fe High to the state tournament in his only year there in 2016, after taking the job just two days before the season began. 

Sure, on paper his credentials are impressive enough. But after watching a little bit of his practice last week and watching him interact with the girls, I am even more convinced that he is the right man for this program. 

He ran the girls through drills to fully understand the fundamentals and took a genuine interest in his team off the basketball court. Following the final drill of last Thursday’s practice, he huddled his team up and talked to them about how finals were going and discussed how they were feeling.

When he asked for feedback from the team, one girl said they needed more water breaks. Carter paused for a moment and responded, “You know, you’re right. I only gave you one today. I need to be giving you one every 45 minutes or so. Thank you.” 

That may not seem like much, but a coach who is willing to accept feedback from his team and adjust based on that means a lot to a high school athlete. 

There is no doubt that a culture change was needed for the team, following a tumultuous and largely unsuccessful two-year run by Josh Archuleta that saw the team win just 12 games combined. 

Under Carter, the team already looks more relaxed and confident, and is displaying a better grasp on the fundamentals of the game. 

Don’t be surprised if success comes quickly for Carter’s team, because he certainly has a lot of young, raw talent at his disposal. While I was talking to him, I brought up Becca Green and Natalie Gallegos, both of whom will be entering their junior years in the Fall. I said that if they learned what to do with the basketball, they could become two of the most dominant players in the state and asked if Carter agreed. 

He gave a quick smile, paused and said, “Well said.”

And the best news for LAHS basketball fans? Carter is interested in staying long term, saying this is the place he wants his kids, 11 and 7, to go to school. He has always admired the work ethic of the kids here, and is anxious to get a closer look. 

I believe this was the perfect hire for this position, because finding great basketball minds with a sincere interest in the community is difficult. In Carter, the Hilltoppers have a man that will be respected by his players and peers and will quickly transform LAHS into a solid, state tournament-quality basketball program.