EZ Panas has long been one of the most recognizable faces at Valley High School boys basketball games.
Now the program is his, as Joe Coleman’s longtime assistant coach has been promoted to interim head coach for the 2021 season. The news became official last week.
“It’s an honor coaching in the North Valley, taking over the Valley boys basketball program,” said Panas, 40, a 1998 graduate of West Mesa. “It’s something I take a lot of pride in.”
Panas was with Coleman for 17 seasons, including the last 10 as Coleman’s right hand.
Earlier this year, Coleman announced his retirement from the Vikings. He led Valley to three state championships, in 2014, 2019 and 2020.
“I’ll work my tail off to make sure we stay at the top,” said Panas. “It’s really rewarding to be in charge of a program that has been in the conversation as one of the top programs in the state for the last 10, 15 years.”
Panas has the endorsement of Coleman.
“Honestly, EZ has deserved an opportunity to coach and … I’m super excited for him,” Coleman said.
Panas said he has gleaned much from sitting next to Coleman.
“He’s a master motivator,” Panas said. “He gets the absolute best out of all the kids in our program. And he was underrated when it came to Xs and Os.”
Panas said he didn’t plan to change much as he transitions to head coach for the Vikings, who beat Highland last March in overtime to win the Class 4A state title.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about that,” he said. “We’ll do things the way we’ve been doing things. I’m excited to get down on campus and be more of a presence with them.”
Panas teaches at Robert F. Kennedy Charter School in the South Valley, but said he might be teaching at Valley next semester.
He was an assistant coach with Diego Aragon at West Mesa for a handful of years before Coleman hired him.