New leader of the pack
February 27, 2023 by Sydney Stremming, Arizona State University
Sydney Stremming is an ASU Cronkite School of Journalism student assigned to cover Desert Mountain High School for AZPreps365.
He started with a plan, and it became a reality.
First year head coach Mitchell Armour led the boys basketball team to the final-four game in the Open Division and remained undefeated at home, after only being hired less than a year ago at Desert Mountain.
Committed to developing the boys basketball program, Athletic Director Stephen Cervantez believed the team needed a culture change for the 2022-23 season. He said he was looking for a coach with a plan, someone who could lead the team and create a culture of accountability and respect. That, he got.
“Everything you could want in a head coach, he presented to us in the interview,” Cervantez said. “From day one he set expectations and standards. He gave clear directives and was not afraid to tell the kids when they weren’t doing something correctly, and get after them in the right way. He came in and put his plan in place, and the kids responded to it.”
Armour previously coached for three years at Scottdale Coronado and most recently two years at Mesa Skyline. Wasting no time, Armour met the team and got to work early last spring. He held practices before school, then would drive to work at Skyline every morning. Admitting it was “a pretty busy and rough spring,” he said it was necessary for the growth of the team.
In previous years, senior point guard Ryan Ginsberg believed people didn’t have much respect for their school’s name in the basketball world. Ready to switch gears, Ginsberg said Armour introduced himself to the team “really firmly and gave off a disciplined vibe.” He said the team quickly understood Armour’s plan and how tight of a program he was going to run.
“He made it known that all the little things were going to get cleaned up, including our attitudes, the way we dress, the way we act in public, and how we speak to people, to put a good name on our program,” Ginsberg said.
Describing Armour, Ginsberg said he is funny, overly energetic, a little unpredictable and kind of old school. Adding more of a strict structure to practices, Ginsberg said one new form of conditioning Armour introduced was pushing towels down and back on the court. Staying silent during stretching and becoming very communicative during practice is what sharpened their focus in such a short amount of time.
“I feel that practices should always be tougher than the game,” Armour said. “Like any other coach, you try to get as much done in a small amount of time, making it as intense as possible, so that when they get to the game it should be easy.”
Describing himself as a “get there early and stay late kind of guy,” Armour said that having kids on a team with the same mindset, who put in the work that needs to be done, has made it more of an enjoyable process.
“Coaching, it’s a thankless job, if you don’t like it, you will burnout pretty quick,” Armour said. “I enjoy it because of the kids that buy in and want to be there.”
Crediting past coaches in his life, both good and bad, is how Armour said he learned to be a leader and develop his craft as a coach.
“As a leader, you have to keep getting better. Listen to who you are trying to lead and try to encourage who and what you need to get done,” Armour said.
Proud of the development within the team and the continued growth throughout the season, Armour said regardless of the outcome, the work put in is always worth it.
“I have been on some teams where we haven’t done so well, and some of those years were my best coaching years I feel,” Armour said. “You always want to be proud of the work you put in, but it's the process that you have to love, or this profession will eat you up pretty fast.”
Looking ahead, Armour plans to go into year two with more focus on the finer details. Even though he has led the team to a successful 25-5 season, he believes everything still needs “tightened up.”
Seeing the team’s success firsthand, Cervantez said he expects Armour “to be here a long time, along with our other coaches.”