In the 28 years since Palm Desert High School opened its doors, it has known only one boys’ basketball coach, and on Tuesday night, after a 57-40 win over crosstown rival La Quinta, that man, coach Don Brady picked up his 400th victory.
The school opened in 1986, and Brady has been there every step of the way, fielding his first varsity squad in 1987, and struggling — as many do — for his first several seasons.
“We were 10-31 our first two years — we were awful. We were the worst basketball team in the valley and I had kids that didn’t even know what the baseline was and we developed a program with some other guys that helped me along the way,” Brady said.
The school presented the longtime coach with a trophy at a ceremony in the school gym immediately following Tuesday’s game.
Brady, who was an English teacher at Palm Desert High School for 25 years, retired from the classroom three years ago which, he says, allows him to appreciate the coaching even more.
“It’s really been wonderful for me to have a chance to just coach basketball and not grade papers,” he said in between handshakes and hugs after Tuesday’s game. “And I graded papers for years and years and I have no idea how I did it.”
While he won’t acknowledge that any one season was more meaningful than any other, certainly his most successful was the 2001-2002 year, in which his squad lost in the CIF final to Bishop Amat and won a first-round game against St. Augustine in the State tournament. His son, Donald Brady, was also a member of that team.
“They’re all memorable,” he said. “Each season has different kids and different personalities … it’s all relative.”
He also advanced his 2011-2012 squad to the State tournament after a loss in the CIF semifinals.
As far as Tuesday’s victory goes, his squad opened a 24-8 lead over the Blackhawks in the first quarter that proved insurmountable, despite a valiant effort by La Quinta in the third period.
Daniel McCown led Palm Desert with 16 points, including three from beyond the arc, and Eric Oetting was close behind with 15 points. Nearly all of Oetting’s points came from behind the 3-point line, draining four from long distance — all of them in the first quarter.
“We really showed up in the first quarter, I thought we were really focused and it kind of set the tone for the rest of the game,” Brady said. “We had a little letdown in the third quarter; they did a good job, you’ve got to hand it to them. But I thought in the fourth quarter we came back and made some plays and hit our free throws and did a really good job of finishing.”
La Quinta made a decent run in the third quarter, outscoring Palm Desert 16-7, on the strength of Jojo Wiggins’ 11 points in that period. He led the Blackhawks with 16 points, followed by Charles Hays with eight.
Palm Desert (13-5, 6-0, Desert Valley League) is at Xavier Prep at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday. La Quinta (10-10, 4-2) is at Indio at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.