When Amherst went searching for a new coach it was looking for someone who knew how to win, knew how to develop talent and longed to return the Comets to a place among the area’s elite teams.
The search ended with Jay Valadez, a 1986 Amherst grad with over a decade of coaching experience.
Valadez guided Andrews-Osborne Academy to a 28-4 record and a National Christian School Athletic Association championship during the 2016-17 season. He has also been an assistant coach at Bay and Westlake and is the currently on the staff of the TNBA AAU program.
“The most important thing to me is I graduated from Amherst, I’m an Amherst guy,” Valadez said. “To me it’s like coming home. Amherst traditionally always had winning programs on the girls’ side — volleyball, softball, basketball. They’re winners and it’s exciting for me to come back and bring the winning, championship culture and mentality back to the basketball program.”
When Amherst athletic director Casey Wolf interviewed Valadez for the job it quickly became apparent he had everything the Comets were looking for.
“We wanted someone who was going to bring some energy to the program, some excitement and was big time into player development. Jay kinda checked all those boxes for us,” Wolf said.
Valadez replaces Kevin Collins, who resigned at the end of last season after five years as coach. Although Amherst had an 11-13 record last year, the Comets are just two years removed from a 19-5 season in 2016-17.
Valadez was a three-year basketball letterwinner at Amherst. Two of the Comets assistant coaches at the time, Art Daniels and Dave Zvara, went on to become two of the top girls coaches in the Southwestern Conference. It ignited Valadez’s passion for coaching.
“Those two guys are great coaches and great people,” he said. “Art Daniels told me something that still sticks with me today and he told me this 25 years ago, ‘People may not remember what you say but they will remember how you made them feel.’ That still sticks with me.
“Coaches like that impact your whole life and that’s something I take very serious. It’s a privilege to be a coach and there’s nothing like coming home to Amherst. I couldn’t be more excited.”
One of the first things Valadez wants to do is take a “grass roots” approach to rebuilding the Comets program, getting kids as young as first-graders involved.
“I think it’s more of an attitude. You look at some of the top programs in the SWC, they have sustained a winning tradition,” Valadez said. “It will be a challenge and learning process to get Amherst back up there. There are some really good programs in the league but there’s no reason we can’t compete with them.
“Amherst is not going to be a mat for someone to walk over. We are going to compete.”