Coach Andy Johnson isn’t ignoring the past to forge Mesa Mountain View’s future ahead in boys basketball.
He may have helped launch college and NBA careers for players in the prep academy scene in Las Vegas at Findlay Prep. But he realizes the tremendous footsteps he is following at Mountain View.
Gary Ernst, forced out before he was ready, cultivated maybe the best high school basketball program in Arizona in the 1980s, ’90s and the 2000s, leaving a legacy that may never be matched by anybody in Arizona again with more than 900 wins and eight state championships, the last seven at Mountain View.
Some loyalists may never get over how Ernst left Mountain View not on his terms.
But Johnson understands the difficult navigation ahead, being that guy coming in from out of state who replaces an icon.
He will try to move the Toros along with his own touch, a faster pace, more uptempo style that he hopes will lead to a state championship the school hasn’t enjoyed since 2011.
“Coach Ernst is one of the best coaches of all time,” Johnson said. “He’s a legend. I have the utmost respect for him. He built Mountain View into a national powerhouse, an Arizona powerhouse.”
Johnson dipped into the Toros’ past to move the program forward.
He brought in former Mountain View players Kendall Wallace and brothers Nick and Andy Sessions to be his assistants. Wallace was All-Arizona for the Toros, helping them win three state championships in a row from 2005-07.
“I’m privileged to be over here and coach these guys up,” Johnson said. “Hopefully, we’ll keep progressing and keep getting better every day.”
Senior point guard Brigg Wolfe likes the new offense that Johnson has implemented. He was clutch in getting the Toros out of a 13-1 hole to begin the game against San Gabriel Academy on Friday morning. Mountain View ended up losing 73-71 in double overtime.
Later in the day, Mountain View bounced back with a 67-53 win over Palo Verde out of Las Vegas in the Diamond King Construction bracket.
“I love it,” Wolfe said about the offense. “It’s fast-paced, moving and grooving. We’ll get there yet.”
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Wolfe is among three returning starters. Power forward Jackson Bowser, one of the top 2023 football prospects in the state as a tight end, started last season. But he wasn’t able to be part of Section 7 with Mountain View, because he was at the University of Washington in Seattle on a football recruiting visit.
Johnson saw progress coming back in the two OT losses against San Gabriel. Nate Bogle and Matt Phair both played well. Phair, whose uncle, Mike Phair, was a great football player at Mountain View, transferred in from Mesa Westwood. He showed tremendous athleticism.
“They kept fighting and fighting,” Johnson said of his players. “That’s the mentality we’re trying to build at Mountain View. These kids we inherited, they’re some great kids. I’m really excited about the progress we’re making so far.”
Section 7 provides s high school players a great chance to be evaluated by more than 500 college coaches from NAIA to high Division I majors.
“It gives kids a chance who might not play AAU or club basketball in the spring and summer an opportunity to be evaluated by college coaches, as well,” Johnson said. “It’s extremely well-organized and provides great competition so college coaches can see over 200 teams and players from multiple states play each other all under one roof.”
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