By MIKE PHILLIPS / Corsicana Daily Sun
ATHENS — Maybe he should have brought a recliner and just leaned back and relaxed.
After all, Michael Landers feels right at home at Trinity Valley Community College, where he spent two successful stints as the women’s basketball coach.
But when returned to TVCC on Wednesday for the Region XIV Media Conference Landers had a new look, a new team and a new goal.
And he’s not even at home at Trinity Valley.
“Not any more,’’ said Landers, who replaced Johnny Estelle as Navarro College’s men’s basketball coach after Estelle left Navarro on July 10 to take a job as an assistant coach at the University of Houston. Estelle leaves gigantic shoes to fill — he went 126-48 and won three regional championships in his five years at Navarro.
Landers steps in with all the respect in the world from the other coaches in Region XIV.
“When I heard Johnny Estelle left Navarro I was jumping up and down,’’ said Trinity Valley men’s coach Kris Baumann. “It was the happiest two weeks of my life. Then they hired Michael Landers. and that ended. He’s the best guy they could have hired.’’
Baumann and the rest of the coaches in this prestigious conference feel same way about Landers, who started his career at East Texas Baptist University, where he was an assistant for four years and the head coach for three years, going 76-13. He had two stints at Trinity Valley Community College and had a 299-39 record over 10 years that included national titles in 2004 and 2012. He won eight conference championships and five regional championships while he was in Athens. Landers coached at TVCC along with his wife, Kenya, for his final two seasons. They went 70-3, including a 36-0 season in 2012 when he won his second national title at TVCC.
He also spent a year between TVCC jobs at Baton Rouge Community College, where he was the athletic director and women’s basketball coach. He went 22-6 his only year there.
He returns to the region as a men’s coach and a sense of humor.
“When I was the women’s coach I would always finish my games and then watch the men’s games,’’ Landers said Wednesday as he took the podium at the media conference. “I would watch the men’s teams in this league and said to myself many times that you would have to be a fool to coach the men’s teams in this league. But now I’m a men’s coach.’’
Landers has a great respect for Navarro’s former coaches and the program they built, and promised on Wednesday to follow that tradition.
“They set a foundation and a philosophy of winning and made Navarro basketball what it is,’’ Landers said. “I want to do things the Navarro way.’’
Landers has five sophomores returning, and is already impressed with his team.
“If the young people buy into to what we want them to do, I think we’ve got a chance to be very competitive and win championships,’’ he said.
Navarro doesn’t bring back any player who averaged double figures, but that’s just fine with Landers. Tony Foster averaged 9.5 points a game, which fits into what Landers wants to see.
“We’re going to be very balanced,’’ Landers said. “We’re more focused on having multiple guys scoring. We would like to play uptempo and play as fast as we can go without (turning the ball over and making mistakes), and we want to take good shots and make the most of every possession.’’
Navarro opens in two weeks at home against East Texas Flight on Nov. 1, but Landers and his Bulldogs already have made a name for themselves. When the preseason coaches poll was released Wednesday, Navarro was listed as the No. 2 team in the East Zone, right behind powerhouse Kilgore, which received eight of the 11 first-place votes. The Bulldogs received two of the 11 first-place votes.
Tyler picked up one first-place vote and was the third pick in the East followed by Trinity Valley, Paris, Panola and Bossier Parish.
Lee was the top team in the West Zone, followed by San Jacinto, Lamar State, Jacksonville, Blinn, Angelina and Coastal Bend.
The poll is in, now comes the season and a new look for Navarro, and a promise from Landers.
“We’re going to bring it every night,’’ Landers said.