DePiano era under way at Auburn Mountainview | Girls basketball

New Auburn Mountainview girls basketball head coach Dustin DePiano in action. - Rachel Ciampi/Reporter
New Auburn Mountainview girls basketball head coach Dustin DePiano in action.
— image credit: Rachel Ciampi/Reporter

Dustin DePiano may not have looked anxious in his first outing as Auburn Mountainview's girls basketball head coach.

But inside, as his team opened the season with a nonleague home game against Federal Way Tuesday, the first-time head coach's stomach was in knots.

"I think it was at about the three-minute mark and it was still 0-0, and I was just hoping to get the first bucket out of the way," DePiano said. "Once that happened then we could start thinking about winning, once we scored."

Despite that rocky start and a third-quarter run by the Eagles, the Lions cruised to a 66-52 victory, delivering DePiano his first-ever win as a head coach.

"It feels really good," he said. "It would have hung over me the rest of the week until Friday if we lost. I didn't want to make it a big deal, but I'm going to go to bed a happy man tonight."

Ever since 2006 DePiano has been a fixture on the bench for Auburn Mountainview's boys and girls basketball team.

After two years as a boys assistant under former coach Jon Price, the 2001 Kentwood graduate switched to the girls program to help longtime Lions coach Chris Carr.

"Once my sister (Sammi DePiano) came in as a freshman, I thought it would be a lot of fun to watch her play and coach her, so I switched over to the girls," he said.

When Carr announced last season that he was stepping down to become the school's athletic director and its dean of students, DePiano began the process of taking over.

"We knew it was going to be Carr's last year," he said. "So all of last year I was kind of being groomed for the position. After the season he made it official. It was just a good fit because I had started teaching here as well."

Some coaches may have been intimidated taking over a program with the former coach still in the building.

For DePiano, no problem.

"There probably should have been some intimidation, but there really hasn't been because (Carr and I) are such good friends," he said. "I'm really leaning on him. I want him to be around because he's got a lot more experience than I do. So I'm in his office every day asking him questions. I really don't feel any pressure from him.

"I think for us this year the lesson I'm getting from him is that we have to play harder than the other team," he said. "And he was a great motivator. So I'm using the same drills, I'm stealing some of his pregame speeches. Anything to get the girls to play harder than the other team. We're small. We're not the most talented team. But we'll outwork other teams."

In the past the Lion girls have had the luxury of height. But with just one six-footer on this year's roster, the team must rely on its speed to progress through the South Puget Sound League 3A and beyond.

"For me, playing guard growing up, I love running and getting shots up," DePiano said. "That's one of our keys this year — seeing how many shots we can put up a game. It wasn't that hard transitioning. I would take a couple of 6-foot-2 kids in an instant. But this style fits the team."

DePiano continued:

"Our chemistry is our identity," he said. "These girls are best friends, on and off the court. The relief I have is we don't have drama, we get along, everyone is in it for each other. If we do anything, that is going to be why. I feel spoiled with this group. We don't have the issues that other coaches have to deal with because the girls are just awesome."

DePiano added that he has the luxury of being able to learn the finer details of coaching high school athletes with the aid of several established coaches at Auburn Mountainview.

"We've got Glen Walker, who just won a state championship with baseball, and Jared Gervais as football coach," he said. "I turn to them. They have this head-coaching-and-teaching thing down. I'll talk to them about anything. Everybody up here is really great."

DePiano and the Lions look to go 2-0 on the season at 5 p.m. Friday against Kennedy at Auburn Riverside.

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