By Ray Hamill — Both of this year’s Big 5 and Dick Niclai double winners suffered an earlier than expected exit from the NCS playoffs this week, but both head coaches say their players have every reason to feel proud of their accomplishments.
“I thought it was a great season,” said Eureka girls head coach Mike Harvey, whose team lost 65-58 to Archie Williams in the Division-III bracket. “I don’t think it was a good season. I think it was a great season.”
Arcata boys head coach Kellen Maynard echoed the sentiment a few days after his No. 2 seeded squad fell 55-51 to No. 15 St. Joseph Notre Dame in Division 4.
“I mean, it’s hard, and the guys are going to be disappointed for weeks, and as a coach it’s going to haunt me for a while,” he said. “But the guys are going to look back one day and realize we accomplished quite a bit this year.”
Last weekend, the Eureka girls defeated Arcata in the Niclai decider to complete the prestigious double for just the second time in program history.
Harvey, who is stepping down as head coach, helped turn around the fortunes of a Eureka team that had struggled to compete with the rest of the Big 5 for much of the past two decades.
He not only led the Loggers to a first outright league title in 18 years, but he also was two-for-two in Niclai tournaments in his three seasons with the team after the Eureka girls had won the H-DNL tourney just once in the previous 25 years.
Maynard, meanwhile, took over the Arcata boys program three days into preseason practice after former head coach Dusty Scofield had to step away at the last moment for personal reasons.
And Maynard did not disappoint in the role, leading the Tigers to their first league and Niclai double in five years, and doing so in the midst of a challenging COVID season.
“It really was a group effort,” he said, while paying tribute to the school administration and all the parents and supporters who volunteered their time to help ensure things ran smoothly. “And I think everybody realized that’s what we really needed to pull off a season this year.”
No word yet on whether Scofield will return next year, but Maynard says he’s more than happy to continue as the team’s head coach or go back to assisting his mentor.
“If Dusty wants to come back, that’s great,” he said. “And if he doesn’t come back, as long as the school and administration want me back, I certainly will be back.”
The Tigers finished 23-4 this season, including a 7-1 mark in the Big 5, and they won two early-season tournaments, including their own AIBT, a win what was a pivotal moment for the coach and players.
“Winning the AIBT and beating Montgomery in the championship game, I think that was when we realized we might have something special going on this year,” Maynard said.
The Eureka girls, meanwhile, closed out 20-9.
“Really our two main goals are winning league and winning Niclai, and we did that,” Harvey said. “I’m as pleased as I could be. We won the two main things we wanted.”
Harvey, who has been coaching basketball in the area for 37 years, says he is stepping away because of family and life, but he believes the program is in good hands going forward and that the Loggers should be competitive again next year with a stellar contingent of juniors coming back.
And he believes assistant coach Romeo Steele would be his perfect replacement.
“Rome’s going to do a great job, assuming he gets the position,” Harvey said. “I think it’s the right call at this time. I think he does a great job with the girls, and the girls love him.”
Harvey began his long coaching career with Dave Mather at McKinleyville Junior High in 1985 and he keeps in regular contact with many of his former players who have become good friends over the years.
He also coached high school golf at Arcata and McKinleyville.
“I was just reflecting on all the guys I’ve coached, and all the girls, and it’s kind of wild,” he said.
He says his favorite moment with the Loggers was winning the Niclai in 2020, when his players mounted a dramatic comeback in the final minute to edge Fortuna.
“I think the pinnacle was the Niclai at Humboldt State,” he said. “That was flat out amazing. I was so happy for the girls.”
His memories from his time at Eureka, as with all the teams he has coached, revolve around the players.
“It’s about the kids,” he said. “I’ll remember the kids. I’ll remember the good memories with them.”
Including the early-season road trips, and attending some Golden State Warriors games with the Eureka players, some of whom had never been to an NBA game before.
And he says one player in particular stands out.
“Keylei Carroll was the perfect person to have on our team,” he said of the 2021 graduate. “Just her personalty and her leadership.”