DAVID FLORES: Bernal endorsing assistant coach as his successor

DAVID FLORES: Bernal endorsing assistant coach as his successor

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DAVID FLORES: Bernal endorsing assistant coach as his successor

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Unfortunately for the proud Lanier High School community, Rudy Bernal’s final season as the Voks’ boys basketball coach didn’t have a storybook ending.

It would have been fun for those of us who love a good story to see Lanier make a long playoff run, but reality trumped sentimentality Tuesday night when Hays beat the Voks 60-52 in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.

Hays’ victory ended Bernal’s 31-season tenure at Lanier, the only school where he has been a head coach. Bernal, 59, will remain at Lanier until the end of the spring semester. He has said he hopes to continue his career at a local private high school next season.

Bernal has recommended Lanier assistant coach Joseph Martinez, who played on the Voks’ state-tournament teams in 2000 and 2001, as his successor. A 2002 Lanier graduate, Martinez has been on Bernal’s staff for six seasons.

I think he knows the game, Bernal said Thursday. He’s been around the kids and understands what our program is about and what we try to do, since he played in the system. His intentions are to continue to do what we’re doing now. I just think that makes him a very good fit for the position here.

Joseph played on the teams that went to the state tournament, and those teams are not that far removed from these kids now. It’s a little more relative to them that it was for our teams in 2000 and 2001, when we were talking about the last time Lanier had been to the state tournament was the 1930s and ’40s.

San Antonio ISD athletic director Gil Garza said the district won’t hire Bernal’s successor until after the boys state tournament, scheduled March 6-8.

I’m sure Joseph is going to be strongly considered, Garza said. He’s an ex-Lanier player, he’s been with Rudy for six years. But, in order to be fair, we need to give everyone an opportunity to apply.

We want to do what’s best for the kids, and we want to hire somebody who’s a good fit for Lanier. It’s a unique place with tremendous community involvement.

Hays outscored Lanier 10-2 in final three minutes

Martinez, 30, is two years older than Bernal was when he succeeded Tom Anderson as the Voks’ head boys basketball coach in 1983. Bernal had coached for five years at Antonian (1978-80), Dwight Middle School (1980-81) and West Campus (1981-83) before going to Lanier.

The Voks went 567-442 and made the playoffs 15 times, including 12 of the past 15 seasons, under Bernal. His last team finished 24-8 overall and 10-4 (third) in District 28-4A.

Lanier led Hays 50-48 with about three minutes left, but the Rebels tied the game at 50 and outscored the Voks 10-2 down the stretch.

It was very disappointing to see us play like that toward the end, Bernal said. We got away from the things that we had been doing as a team. We got a little bit selfish and the kids all wanted to be heroes by themselves, instead of working through each other and with each other.

Bernal’s first team went 5-25 and Lanier didn’t have a winning season on his watch until the 1988-89 season, when it went 21-13. The Voks made the playoffs for the first time under Bernal in 1991, starting a steady climb that reached its apex with the state-tournament appearances in 2000 and 2001.

Lanier lost in the semifinals in 2000, and fell in the title game the next year.

I’m definitely proud of what we were able to establish, Bernal said. The kids who came into our program every year were in tune with what we were doing. I felt real good about the program and where it was going.

Bernal never made excuses at Lanier

The Voks are not only losing an outstanding coach, they’re losing an exemplary mentor whose deep ties to Lanier made him a perfect fit for the job. Bernal’s father, Ramiro, and an uncle, Joe Bernal, played for the Voks when Lanier was a basketball power in the 1930s and 1940s.

Rudy’s record, alone, speaks for itself, Garza said. But what he’s done with that program and how he made the kids believe in themselves, I think, is probably his biggest accomplishment. There were two keys to what he did. He made kids play better than they were, and he made them believe in themselves. He gave them self-confidence.

He knew what he had. He played to their strengths. They were quick, they could press, they could shoot, they boxed out, they had all the fundamentals. He got everything out of them that he could. That’s a very good quality to have as a coach.

Garza described Bernal as a great teacher who held his players accountable on and off the court.

He was tough to play for because he demanded a lot and his expectations were very high, Garza said. It’s very easy when you’re working at an inner-city school to find excuses. You never heard Rudy make excuses.

I think the players even had a T-shirt that said ‘No excuses’ in the back. Rudy didn’t use anything as a crutch. Just because you’re inner-city doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.Sometimes you have to play with the cards that are dealt you. Complaining is not going to get you anywhere. You have to mold what you have. Rudy was very good at that.

Bernal’s successor faces a daunting task, indeed.

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DAVID FLORES: Bernal endorsing assistant coach as his successor

DAVID FLORES: Bernal endorsing assistant coach as his successor

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