When Rob Hanmer walked around the Rancho Mirage High School gym with one of his assistants while the school was still under construction, he envisioned a dream: filling the venue to the brim with a raucous, local high school basketball-loving crowd.
Awards weren’t the goal. He knew well over his more than 20 years of coaching that significant accolades only come once in a blue moon. Hanmer only wanted to bring some excitement back to the Coachella Valley basketball landscape.
That’s exactly what 30 wins in-a-row will do. And rightfully so, though Hanmer fell just short of leading the Rattlers to the CIF Southern Section Division 3A title this season, earlier this week the Rancho Mirage coach was honored as the division’s Coach of the Year.
Out of the 12 COY winners across boys’ basketball in the Southern Section, Hanmer was one of just two coaches to garner the award without taking home a trophy. So often, the championship-winning coach in any sport, league or division is the obvious choice for such an honor, but Hanmer’s peers knew his team’s 30-2 record, including a trip to the state playoffs, was more impressive of a coaching feat.
“I think most awards at the end of the season are because of your team’s success,” he said. “It’s because we had a ridiculously good season. For a group of kids to stay focused and be successful for 30 games in-a-row in obviously very impressive.”
The honor was the second such award for Hanmer, but the first since his 1997 Cathedral City team won the Division 3AA CIF Southern Section title 19 years ago.
This year, he said, it feels very different.
“I was 26 years old, and I just assumed that things like this always happen,” he said. “But the longer you coach, you start to realize that special teams don’t happen every year, and you start to appreciate it more. When you have a special team and get recognition, I do think you appreciate it more as you mature.”
Some of the best recognition Hanmer received, he said, came from the former players and fellow coaches who came and cheered him on during the Rattlers’ postseason run. He remembers 2008 Cathedral City grads coming to watch the team’s Ocean View victory and a former coaching mentor, as well as 1998 Lions grads, coming to El Camino for the team’s first round state playoffs loss.
Despite a second-straight defeat, piling into the team’s charter bus and celebrating a successful season over burgers at In-n-Out with those devoted supporters was a memory from this season Hanmer said he’ll always cherish.
“It was really, really hard, but now we’ve had a little bit of time, and you start to realize that we had a phenomenal year,” he said.
Rattlers’ Charles Neal honored by league, CIF
Of course, Hanmer and the rest of the Rancho Mirage boys’ basketball team couldn’t have made their historic run to the semifinals of the CIF playoffs without the team’s prolific guard, junior Charles Neal, who Monday was named to the All-CIF Division 3A First Team – the only underclassman to make the list.
Wednesday, Neal was also named the MVP of the De Anza League, while Hanmer was named Coach of the Year, and two other Rattlers – seniors Daryn Evans and Tyrell Robinson – also made the list.
Desert Hot Springs seniors Kwmaine Gordon and Alejandro Moreno, Shadow Hills senior Sean Roby and Desert Mirage senior Alan Ramos were also given All-De Anza League First Team honors.
Neal made the All-CIF Second Team a year ago as a sophomore in the Rattlers’ first varsity season, but Hanmer said he saw a renewed devotion to the game in his team’s leader both on and off the court that propelled him to the next level.
“He really, really was on point and stayed focused from Thanksgiving to March, and as a young person, that’s hard to do,” Hanmer said. “I’m really proud of him bringing it on a consistent basis, competing and leading our team by example. … It shows a sign of a kid that’s willing to work and get better.”
Hanmer said he plans on putting together a much tougher non-league schedule next year, putting an undefeated season a tough goal to reach.
But Neal said all season that the most important goal – one his team came short of this year – was hauling home a championship trophy.
This offseason, he’s going to give that all he has.
“There’s always room for growth in the game of basketball,” Neal said. “I want to not only work on all aspects of my game, but become a better leader on the court and take a senior role. … I want to take my game to the next level next year.”
All De Anza League boys’ basketball
MVP: Charles Neal, Rancho Mirage
Coach of the Year: Rob Hanmer, Rancho Mirage
Daryn Evans, Rancho Mirage, senior
Tyrell Robinson, Rancho Mirage, senior
Kwmaine Gordon, Desert Hot Springs, senior
Alejandro Moreno, Desert Hot Springs, senior
Sean Roby, Shadow Hills, senior
Alan Ramos, Desert Mirage, senior
Charles Neal, Rancho Mirage, junior
William Watson, Desert Hot Springs, senior
Nathan Tiaga, Shadow Hills, senior
Melvin Harmon, Desert Mirage, senior
Baylee Carter, Desert Hot Springs, junior
Matt Barajas-Tiedeman, Rancho Mirage, junior
Koby Alvarez, Rancho Mirage, sophomore
Luis Guliien, Rancho Mirage, senior
Andres Moreno, Desert Hot Springs, senior
Brock Greer, Shadow Hills, senior
Froilan Rodriguez, Desert Mirage, junior