By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Kevin McInnis and BYU-Hawaii Athletics
How do you replace a coach who leaves after a 12-year run that included 250 wins, 10 region championships and seven state titles? That was the task facing the administrators at Lone Peak High when Quincy Lewis announced he was leaving the Knights to join Dave Rose’s staff at Brigham Young University.
For the answer, Lone Peak took a familiar path to the one that brought Lewis to town, turning over the keys to a young rising star who would make this his first head coaching position. David Evans took the helm for the 2015-16 season and as it turns out, he seems to have the perfect temperament for combining superstar Frank Jackson with a cast of less experienced co-stars to create another state title contender in Highland.
The Knights finished their regular-season with a record of 20-4 and three of those losses came against out-of-state competition. Despite a loss to Copper Hills in the state quarterfinal round of the state tournament, the tradition of excellence remains despite the changing of the guard on the bench.
While Lewis was a local product, having played at Timpview and Dixie College before stints as an assistant coach at Utah Valley and Southern Utah, Evans is a newcomer to the Utah sports scene, a relative unknown. One thing he shares in common with Lewis is a link to Ken Wagner and the program at BYU-Hawaii, where Lewis is a one-time assistant coach and where Evans played before also spending some time alongside Wagner on the bench.
“I think it’s always hard to follow someone who’s been extremely successful because it’s almost a no-win situation in a lot of cases, but at the same time, if you’re going to be coaching, you might as well get in a situation where you can be the best,” Wagner said. “So, if you look at it in a positive way, there could be a lot of excuses, but you know that it’s successful so you have to do your part in keeping it that way. David is going to be excellent at maintaining the excellence all the time and I think he’ll be outstanding there.”
Northern California Roots
Evans’ basketball roots are in Northern California, where he was a high-scoring guard at Ponderosa High School in the town of Shingle Springs, which rests in the foothills about 40 miles from Sacramento. His high school coach is a legend in that area, Terry Battenberg, who remains a major influence on Evans.
“He’s about as good a coach as you can be, in my opinion,” Evans said. “His knowledge of the game, his take of the game is actually very simple. He has had an all-league post player just about every year he has coached. I’m a guard, but I posted a ton because of Terry Battenberg. He’s head and shoulders over a lot of people just with his knowledge of the game, and he has a way of getting players to play really hard and to be very fundamental without being fancy.”
Battenberg began coaching in 1969, at the age of 22, when he took the top job at Sacramento’s Jesuit High School. His most recent coaching stint ended after the 2014-2015 season, when he coached at Vista del Lago High in Folsom, California.
The things he learned from Battenberg were quite helpful in preparing Evans for his current roster at Lone Peak, which is long on guards. Along with his emphasis on developing big men (he has written a book on that subject), Battenberg is known for his emphasis on passing and ball movement.
“I was such a small guy and he put a lot of faith in me,” Evans said. “He’s a phenomenal person, a great coach. (I picked up) a lot of his style…he runs, gets up and down. He has a lot of good offenses and he believes in his players. When I was a sophomore, he brought me up to varsity and I was 5-foot-7 maybe. It was really good for me.”
While Battenberg is convinced Evans has all of the tools to be an outstanding coach, he was not convinced that this was the path Evans would pursue.
“I thought he’d be smarter than that, actually,” Battenberg said. “I never advise anyone to go into coaching, it’s a tough way to go. You can make money a lot easier and have a lot less heartache. I’ve known him since he was a young boy, an eighth-grader actually. He played for me for three years in high school and helped me do some coaching after that, and even while he was a young guy, he helped me in my summer camps.
“I know that he’s definitely a basketball mind and he’s always a student of the game. The thing I like about him is he’s a great all-around person, he’s a real people person, he communicates with parents and kids really well, and of course he has a great knowledge of the game, but the one thing that will set him apart from others is that he’s a student of the game, he’s always willing to learn more.”
College In Hawaii
After leading the state of California in scoring as a high school senior, Evans played collegiately at BYU-Hawaii. He played for the Seasiders during the 1994-95 season, and after serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Alaska, he returned to BYU-Hawaii, where he finished his playing career in 2000.
Evans had a tryout with the Dallas Mavericks before heading to an expected professional opportunity playing in Japan, but when that fell through, he went back to Hawaii and gained his first coaching experience, on Wagner’s staff. He returned to the court the next year, playing a couple of seasons in Norway before returning to Hawaii, where he ran a successful construction company when he wasn’t on the Seasider coaching staff.
“I think probably the most important thing is he’s been really successful no matter what he’s done,” Wagner said in describing Evans. “He’ll do what he needs to do to win. As a player, he led the nation in scoring. As a high school player, he did the same things and they had an excellent team. He went on to play professionally and was very successful, had a real successful construction business. Then he wanted to get back in coaching and helped us for three years. He’s very personable, very skilled and was a great student.”
Wagner is sure that Evans has the temperament and the humility to succeed as a basketball coach at any level, and he believes he was an ideal choice to replace Lewis.
“First of all, he has great character and a great work ethic,” Wagner said. “That made him a great player and a great student. I think in coaching you need the same thing. He has a drive to win and he understands the game. I mentioned building a new business, he really built one of the most successful construction businesses for single homes here in Hawaii and he’s the type of person that will figure out what he needs to do to win, to be successful.”
What Evans might lack in experience, Wagner was confident he would make up for with his love of the game and his desire to pass that on to the young people he coaches.
“I think the reason he’ll be real successful in high school is he has a real passion for the game of basketball and I think he has a real passion for life,” Wagner said. “He’s always going and has a lot of high energy. For the inexperience someone might have coaching, I know enthusiasm makes up for it, but he’s actually had quite a bit of experience, being around the college program and all his playing experiences. I think the players will have a lot of fun. All our players really enjoyed their relationship with him and I think he’ll develop the same relationships with high school kids.”
Lone Peak Opportunity
A year ago, Evans and his wife Amy took their five children to England, where he resumed his playing career. Having decided to move back to the United States, the Lone Peak opening came at the perfect time for Evans. The program Lewis has built at Lone Peak, combined with his parents’ current residence in Springville, drew the coach to apply for the job.
“I’m excited to go to a program that has this kind of winning tradition,” Evans said at the time he arrived in Highland. “It’s different than I thought. I didn’t realize is was this….big. I’m from out of state. This is a big deal.”
Evans loves the talent he inherited upon his arrival at Lone Peak and he has seen that it fits his preferred style of play. He also loves the way the community embraces basketball, and more specifically Knights’ basketball.
Last summer, when he was brand new on the job and running his first youth camp, he had a memorable conversation with his former mentor, Battenberg. He shared some of that conversation.
“I was talking to Coach Battenberg about that (the community support) and he asked, ‘What are you doing right now?’ And I said ‘I’m running a skills camp at Lone Peak.’ And he asked “How many kids you got out there?’ And I said, ‘About 400.’
“He said ‘What?’ Because he doesn’t know Lone Peak. He asked, “Are you kidding me? What kind of support do you have over there?’ and I said ‘It’s incredible, coach.’ At Ponderosa, we knew all the kids coming up in Shingle Springs, all the kids at camp, we knew them, about 80 kids maybe. That’s K through 12, but we had some good teams come through there with him.”
Now, Evans is working to integrate his personal philosophy with the systems he has learned from the other coaches with which he has interacted. Year one was impressive, and now the work begins to build on that.
“Our goal is to take more shots and better shots than our opponent,” Evans said. “What that means is we’ve got to play great defense, we’ve got to take great shots on offense. We’re going to transition and we’re going to rebound. I like up-tempo basketball.
“At BYU- Hawaii, we tried to score over 100 points and I think there are the type of kids who can do that. We have really good younger kids here that can run, that can go, and our older kids are very skilled. Our goal is to continue what Quincy and Lone Peak has established and we’ll just do our best to do that.”