With his oldest daughter almost in high school, Merced High boys basketball coach Hector Nava planned to transition to coaching girls in a few years.
That move is happening now.
Nava is taking over as the Golden Valley High girls basketball coach.
Replacing Nava at Merced will be former Le Grand coach Adrian Sanchez.
“The district kind of put the transition on fast forward for us,” Nava said. “I was going to switch to the girls side in a matter of time.”
Nava, 42, was planning to transition over to coaching girls in a few years when his oldest daughter, Alexia, reached high school. However, when the Merced High Union School District announced it was eliminating a physical education teaching position at Merced next year, Nava had the choice of switching departments or switching schools.
When a physical education teaching position opened up at Golden Vallep, he jumped at it.
Nava coached the boys at Merced from 2012 to 2019, compiling a 105-86 record. The Bears won Central California Conference championships in 2014 and 2017 under Nava.
“It’s extremely tough leaving Merced,” Nava said. “I always thought I would be here until I finish coaching. I thought I would be here and coach my son and see my daughters go through here and graduate. My son is only 4 years old.
“I’m leaving some pretty good young basketball players. It’s going to be tough watching them as fans.”
Nava worked at Golden Valley from 2005 to 2011, coaching the lower level boys programs for Hunter.
One of the first rumors floating around was Nava was going to eventually take over for Hunter.
“That was one of the first rumors I had to deal with when I talked to the girls,” Nava said. “I told them I’m not here to take anyone’s position. I’m here to teach and coach the girls. I’m not here to take Keith Hunter’s spot. Not now or two or three years from now.”
Nava is looking forward to the challenge of coaching girls.
“I’m excited because it starts a new chapter,” Nava said. “It also directly effects my family. I’m going to teach a group of young women and eventually going to help my daughter out. She’s two years from reaching high school. We’re going to start a new foundation at Golden Valley.”
Sanchez takes over at Merced
One of the first players Nava coached when he began his coaching career at Le Grand High was Sanchez. He’s thrilled that Sanchez is taking over the Bears program.
“I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if it wasn’t possible to land him,” Nava said. “I know Adrian was looking for a varsity position and I was hoping the opportunity was there for him to be the guy. I’m extremely excited for him.”
Sanchez, 32, graduated from Le Grand in 2004. He played two years for Vance Walberg at Fresno City in 2005 and 2006 and then played at Fresno Pacific University from 2006-2008, where he was a teammate with El Capitan High boys coach Adrian Hurtado.
Sanchez later played professionally in Mexico for four years.
Sanchez returned to Le Grand and coached the Bulldogs from 2014-2017 and then coached the Clovis West junior varsity team under Walberg the past three seasons.
“It’s exciting,” Sanchez said. “Leaving Le Grand and getting out and experiencing something different was very fun. I didn’t envision being a head coach again. This kind of lineup and fell in my lap.”
Sanchez was hired as a special education teacher at Merced High.
Sanchez says he’s learned a lot from Walberg, who is a coaching icon in the Central Valley.
“Playing for him I learned a lot of the X’s and O’s,” Sanchez said. “I also learned how to run a program, how to manage situations and he’s taught me many aspects of basketball. He’s done it at a high level and it’s been a very good learning experience.”
Sanchez is honored to take over a Merced program that has had only three coaches in the last 37 years in Nava, Marcus Knott and Vince Clemons.
“Growing up in small town like Planada and coming back to the area, I know Merced has a rich tradition,” Sanchez said. “It was the first high school in Merced. I think there is a lot of expectations and I’m excited for it.”