FARMINGTON — The Piedra Vista boys basketball team has hired Devon Manning to be its new head coach.
From his record-breaking stint with Kirtland Central High School and his decorated run with Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., as a player, to his reclamation project as coach of the Bloomfield Bobcats, Manning has reached success at every stage of his basketball career.
After being hired by PV last week, Manning may be facing his biggest challenge to date, which will be keeping the Panthers competitive as they make the move up to Class 6A.
"I feel good about it," Manning said. "It's going to be a tough one. There's no easy games ahead of us, especially moving up to 6A now, playing Rio Rancho and Cleveland. But I'm excited for the challenge and can't wait to get ready to go."
It didn't happen overnight, but Manning turned the Bloomfield program around during his four years with the school from 2012-16.
The Bobcats were a combined 15-40 during Manning's first two years, but they turned a corner after that, going 41-16 the last two seasons. Last winter, the coach helped Bloomfield reach the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history.
When Manning was hired by PV as a teacher in March, he planned on taking a year off from coaching. But things changed when Adam Huff, PV's coach for the past four seasons, re-signed from the position in May.
"When the job opened up, the itch to coach became bigger and bigger each day," Manning said. "I was going to take the year off just to see if coaching was a desire, since I'm still young in it, but it's just a real good opportunity — a hard opportunity to pass up."
Frank Whalen, the athletic director and activities coordinator for the Farmington Municipal School District, said he hired Manning knowing what kind of competitor he is. Whalen believes the Panthers will take on the competitive spirit of their new head coach.
"One thing I can say about Devon is, he's a competitor. Anyone who saw him play at high school and college knows the kid's a winner," Whalen said. "He competes at everything he does. If you look at all the Bloomfield teams, they were always real competitive. They did things the right way, as far as sportsmanship. They were always classy and always played hard, and that's a reflection of him."
With seven seniors from last season's team out the door and only one soon-to-be senior on the upcoming roster, Manning will be guiding a very young team into the toughest class in the state. But he's looking forward to teaching athletic junior standout Jarrett Graham and the rest of the Panthers his style of ball.
"I gotta train (Jarrett) a little bit, get him to understand he doesn't always gotta go one-on-one. He's a good asset, but yeah, everyone on our team's gonna be a good asset for us," Manning said. "I just gotta teach them the way I like to play and coach the game. It's gonna take an adjustment period on their part, but I think once they understand and accept what I'm trying to teach to them, we'll be very successful."
Piedra Vista finished 14-14 last season in its final campaign as a member of Class 5A. The Panthers lost 65-56 to Española Valley in the first round of the state tournament.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.