ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Ex-UNM assistant now head coach at Haskell University
New Gig for Shane FlanaganBy Ken SickengerJournal Staff Writer
Shane Flanagan admits he never saw this coming.
Just four months removed from his tenure as a University of New Mexico assistant, Flanagan will be back in the state this weekend to make his head-coaching debut.
The 37-year-old son of UNM and Eldorado High coaching legend Don Flanagan, Shane is coaching women’s basketball at NAIA Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan. His team opens its season in a round-robin tournament at Northern New Mexico College in Española. Haskell faces College of the Southwest on Friday at 2 p.m.
“How crazy is that?” Shane Flanagan said in a phone interview. “In a way I’m looking forward to it and in a way I’m not. I’ve only got nine players eligible and we’ve only been practicing three weeks. We’re barely a work in progress right now.”
Flanagan’s path to a college head-coaching job was entirely unexpected. Don Flanagan resigned from UNM in April, and Shane’s assistant coaching contract expired June 30. The younger Flanagan did not plan to immediately leave the state.
“I really was looking for a high-school coaching job in New Mexico,” Flanagan said.
That led him to call Kirtland Central High School and later resulted in a call back from Nana Allison-Brewer. Allison-Brewer played volleyball at UNM in the late 1990s and walked onto the Lobo basketball team in 1997-98. She later coached volleyball at various high schools, including Kirtland Central, before coaching in the college ranks. She’s now the volleyball coach at Haskell.
“Nana played for my dad, so she knew who I was,” Flanagan said. “and her sister works at Kirtland Central. Nana called me in June and told me there was an opening, so we started talking back and forth.”
The women’s basketball program at Haskell was in disarray after 40-year coach Phil Homeratha was diagnosed to have cancer and retired last spring. Flanagan did not officially take over until September.
“Nobody had really looked after the players since last season,” Flanagan said. “They hadn’t lifted, their schedules conflicted all over the place, it was a mess.”
Flanagan does not currently have an assistant coach, but he did know where to recruit a little experienced help. Don Flanagan traveled to Lawrence for a week to help Shane get things up and running.
“That was actually a lot of fun,” Shane said. “I think it kind of brought him back to when he started coaching. He was a big help to me, that’s for sure.”
Shane said coaching at Haskell is nothing like what he experienced in five seasons at UNM. He’s held practices at 5:30 a.m. and at 8 p.m. to accommodate players’ schedules, moniters study halls and is teaching primarily fundamentals to a freshman-laden team.
“It’s entirely different,” Flanagan said, “but I’m learning a lot. I guess there’s no better way to learn about being head coach than to do it.”
Flanagan is also getting in touch with his Native American roots. His mother, Wahleah, is Native American and has long run a gallery at Taos Pueblo.
“I’m still getting used to being asked about my tribe,” Flanagan said.
But he’s hopeful that having New Mexico ties at schools with large Native American populations will pay off in his new position.
“I’ve seen a lot of good players at places like Gallup, Kirtland Central and Window Rock, Arizona, over the years,” Flanagan said. “If I can get some of the best Native American kids from those schools, I really think we can do well.”
But Flanagan knows better than to expect miracles.
“Yeah, my dad reminded me that building a program is a process,” he said. “We’re very early in this process.”
— This article appeared on page D3 of the Albuquerque Journal