With the start to the 2022-2023 high school basketball season now upon us very soon, this new high school basketball season will be much different, as we will start the boy's basketball season later this month without the amazing presence of two of the state's best high school coaches, regardless of class, of all time. Arizona will surely miss the leadership and excellence of former Mesa Mountain View High School Head Coach Gary Ernst and former Thunderbird High School Head Coach Buddy Rake. Both legendary coaches were relieved of their duties of leadership at the end of last season in a very poor manner, and our state's high school basketball culture will never be the same in their absence.
When both coaches were removed as head coaches at their respective programs during the off-season, I was so upset about it and almost hurt, as both of these two amazing coaches and individuals have been a personal blessing to my life.
Coach Ernst actually coached me as a youth at the Arizona Basketball Camp in 1985 and 1986, and also in BCI tournaments as a kid. Coach Ernst is a wonderful human being and has been a friend to me for a many years. I coached many of his former players with the Arizona Magic club program, and also was blessed to nominate him for the McDonald's All-American Game in 2003 - an honor which Gary Ernst received and he was able to coach NBA superstar Lebron James in the game. Coach Ernst is a true legend in the state and will be forever missed as a leader of young men in Arizona high school basketball.
Buddy Rake has been a close personal friend of mine and someone I consider as a blessing to my life. I have known Coach Rake for many, many years, and have marveled at his ability to coach his kids thoroughly, no matter how much talent he has or doesn't have. Rake is a strong pillar in the community, and one of the best attorney's in the country. He has helped me personally on several occasions, as well as many others, including representing my close friend Gino Crump in his case with Desert Vista High School, which resulted in Gino getting his job back and winning a 6A State Title in 2020. Buddy Rake was instrumental in making a wrong into a right.
I was advised by someone close to Coach Rake that he never even took a paycheck from Thunderbird High School, as long as he was there. Are you serious?! That's integrity!
Buddy Rake coached at Thunderbird High School for (32) years and was amazing as a developer of young men. Regardless of his won/loss record, Coach Rake won every day, as he brought a lot to a community that lacked much growth over time. He was a stable - a role model for so many young men over the years, and did it with sincerity and a passion for the game and developing young men as players and young men.
Gary Ernst will be so missed, but he will truly always be remembered, as he leaves his coaching duties in Arizona, as the winningest coach in Arizona high school basketball history, winning more than (900)+ games in his coaching career - the first high school coach in Arizona history to win more than 900 games. He won (7) different state titles while coaching at Mesa Mountain View for an amazing (38) years, and also won three state titles in a row at Mesa Mountain View, from 2005-2007. Coach Ernst coached a total of (48) years in Arizona high school basketball. His first state championship came in 1976, while leading Chandler High School - a total of (8) different state titles for Coach Ernst.
Both high school program's administration, Mesa Mountain View and Thunderbird High School, stated they wanted to go in a different direction with their programs. Hard for me to understand how you move away from two legendary figures in your program. It is fine if that is what you want to do, but then atleast allow for these two legendary coaches to go out on their terms. No fairwell tour, no true level of satisfaction and appreciation for either of these two coaching icons for the state of Arizona? I am more than upset and hurt for these two friends and mentors for how they were treated by their respective programs. But life will definitely go on for both of them, while the Arizona High School Basketball Community will sure suffer from the absence of these two men, that developed so many.
While we will start the 2022-2023 season soon, it will be void of two of the best coaches our state has ever seen. It is definitely a new day in Arizona basketball, and I am surely appreciative for what Coach Ernst and Coach Rake did for me, and many others over the course of their servitude to the Arizona community, not just the basketball community. Thank you Gary! Thank you Buddy! Well done.