FARMINGTON — Ryan Dee’s drive to win basketball games is insatiable, and he’s done plenty of that.
He went 66-34 coaching Tsé Bit A'í Middle School’s boys program in Shiprock the previous six years, winning two San Juan Basin League titles along the way.
And after going 6-10 during the 2017-2018 season, he tallied back-to-back 13-win campaigns, including the second of his two league titles.
Dee, who also went 16-1 with a league title coaching the Tsé Bit A'í girls in the 2017-2018 season, looks to prolong such success as Aztec’s next boys basketball coach.
Dee takes over a squad that’s won just 70 total games since the 2011-2012 season.
“I was never apprehensive about it. I never looked at the past. I’m always up for a challenge,” Dee said. “I embrace obstacles. It’s motivated me to do better. When I go through tough times, I know how to get out of it.”
Dee replaces Matthew Steinfeldt, who spent the previous four years at the helm. Steinfeldt, who also coached the football team the previous eight years, stepped down in February to become the next football coach at Bear Creek High School in Lakewood, Colorado.
On offense, Dee said he values the small things, like communicating on set plays, setting pick-and-rolls, making free throws and setting up quick 3-pointers off kick-out passes.
“We have to do the little things right,” Dee said. “That’s something I will emphasize. Each possession will count, every free throw will count in the end. I have a whole playbook the last six years.”
Dee also looks to incorporate various pressing defenses, from the 2-2-1 to the 3-2 and box-one schemes, to frustrate opposing shooters and force turnovers.
Dee also said he wants to see Aztec overcome tough times, such as stringing together consecutive wins after enduring a losing streak.
“I want them to be resilient,” Dee said. “It doesn’t matter how you start, it matters how you finish.”
Aztec’s last playoff appearance in boys basketball came during the 2010-2011 season, in which the Tigers won 16 games.
And Dee’s driven to right the ship.
“His energy and his enthusiasm is pretty infectious,” Aztec Athletic Director Bryan Sanders said. “We’re wanting to build something that’s going to last. You want to build something that’s going to be a quality program. We want somebody that’s going to take us a step farther.”
Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.