Johnny Estelle

Estelle becomes UH assistant

Navarro College head basketball coach Johnny Estelle resigned his position Tuesday to become an assistant on coach James Dickey’s staff at The University of Houston.

“It’s a career opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Estelle said. “My heart has been troubled by this. It’s hard to leave this program, the success we’ve been able to achieve and these people who’ve been so supportive of me and my family throughout our time here.  It’s really hard.”

Estelle, with a five-year head-coaching mark of 126-48, has been part of Navarro’s unprecedented run of six Region XIV Tournament Championship final-game appearances in seven seasons.  He’s led the Bulldogs to three Region XIV Tournament Championships in five years (2009, 2010, 2012) and their first-ever berths in the National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament at Hutchinson, Ks.

Under Estelle, Navarro compiled more wins than any other Region XIV program over the last five years. His 2009-10 team finished fourth in the national tournament and tied a school record for single-season victories – amassing a 30-7 record.  The Waco native and Texas A&M-Kingsville graduate served as a Navarro assistant under NJCAA Hall of Fame Coach Lewis Orr for eight seasons.

Estelle coached two NJCAA First-Team All-Americans and Region XIV Players of the Year (DeAndre Brown and Matt Pressey), 16 All-Region XIV players, 12 All-Tournament selections, and placed more than 60 student-athletes at all divisional levels of NCAA or NAIA basketball.

Two of Estelle’s former Bulldogs – 6-foot-3 guard Darian Thibodeaux and 6-foot-9 forward Leon Gibson III – made significant contributions to Dickey’s first three seasons at Houston.

Dickey and associate coach Alvin Brooks led the Cougars to a 20-13 record during their 17th and final Conference USA season.  On July 1, UH became a member of the new 10-team American Athletic Conference with Louisville, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Memphis, Temple, Rutgers, South Florida, Central Florida and Southern Methodist.

According to athletic director Roark Montgomery, assistants Eric Colbert and Brian Crawford continue to direct daily basketball operations at Navarro, while a nationwide search for Estelle’s successor begins.

Navarro returns five sophomores from a 25-8 Region XIV tournament finalist team, including second-team all-conference guard Toney Foster, 6-foot-4 Jamars Goodwin, 6-foot-4 Duan Wright, 6-foot-1 Shannon Lilly, and 6-foot-10 Jaleel Cousins, the younger brother of the Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins.  Also, the Bulldogs signed a rich recruiting class — with three of the Greater Houston area’s Top 26 players from the Class of 2013 – Alief Elsik’s DaShawn Robinson, Brazosport’s Khory Ross, and Westside’s Rodrick Trimont. The centerpieces of Navarro’s signing class are joined by guards Cris Boleware of Arlington Seguin, sharpshooter Malik Hawkins of Killeen Ellison, and Trey Jones of Houston Strake Jesuit.  Additionally, Navarro beefed its interior play with the signings of 6-foot-6 Nyheem Atkins of Brooklyn, NY, 6-foot-7 Connors State transfer Troy Jones, 6-8 Anthony Walker of West Mesquite, and 6-foot-10 Neville Fincher, who was unable to qualify academically at Kansas State.

Estelle’s departure Tuesday is one of three in the last 24 hours to create seismic waves throughout the landscape of junior college basketball coaching.

Elsewhere, on Monday:

* Howard College head coach Mark Adams resigned his position to become Director of Basketball Operations at his alma mater, Texas Tech University, under Tubby Smith; and

* After amassing a 62-6 two-year record at Northwest Florida State, Steve Forbes relinquished his post and became an assistant under Gregg Marshall at Wichita State University.

Adams who led Howard to the 2010 NJCAA National Championship, has won 11 different coach of the year honors. He’s served as head coach at Clarendon (1982-83), Wayland Baptist (1984-87), West Texas A&M (1987-92), Texas Pan-American (1992-97) and Howard (2005-13), with a career record of 448-229.

After completing his third 30-win season at Howard, Adams’ teams finished first or second in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference nine straight seasons. In 23 seasons as a head coach, he’s advanced to postseasons 14 times and reached national tournaments of each school’s respective classification eight times (3 NJCAA, 3 NAIA, and 2 NCAA-Division II).