For DHS girls basketball, it’s all about the mindset

Durango High School girls basketball head coach Nancy Smith’s attempt to bring an air of positivity to the Demons seems to have caught on, as several Durango players have mentioned an increased sense of team unity this season as DHS contends for a playoff spot in Class 4A. Enlarge photo

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald file photo

Durango High School girls basketball head coach Nancy Smith’s attempt to bring an air of positivity to the Demons seems to have caught on, as several Durango players have mentioned an increased sense of team unity this season as DHS contends for a playoff spot in Class 4A.

A set of portable speakers was alight with the sound of pop music of various stripes remixed with the underlying sounds of squeaking sneakers and bounced basketballs from the opposite end of the gym.

Loud, yet positive, reinforcement from the head coach made for a third layer of sound as Nancy Smith went about practicing what she’s preached to her squad since taking over.

The Durango High School girls basketball team isn’t any more talented at a quick glance than its predecessor last year that finished 5-16.

But an underlying theme that’s been mentioned off-hand in interviews all season is a cohesiveness and an effort to put forth a more positive vibe that DHS struggled with at times last year.

It’s one of several reasons the Demons still are chasing a playoff berth at this late stage of the season.

That isn’t to say former head coach Klint Chandler’s style wasn’t effective – he led the Demons to a playoff berth and first-round victory in 2010. But Smith’s honey over vinegar approach seems to be working with this squad.

Coming in, Smith said she wanted to know as little as possible about what went on before her arrival, and she said that helped as she said nobody rebuffed her attempts to influence the mindset.

“When we see greatness, we try to encourage that,” she said.

This season, it began with Smith putting in her philosophy of KENT – that if you’ve got something to say to a teammate, it needs to be Kind, Encouraging, Necessary and True.

“My brother, when he was 3, went in the store and told this man, ‘Mister, you eat too many taters,’” Smith said as an example. “He was overweight. It was true, but it wasn’t necessary.”

Senior guard Alyssa Montoya echoed what’s been a common refrain at times all season – that a focus on staying unflinchingly positive has been a boon.

It’s helped the Demons (9-5, 2-3 Southwestern League) keep an even temperament through a seven-game win streak and the ensuing three-game losing slide.

“Just not letting success get to your head and not letting failure get to your heart,” said Montoya, daughter of Richard and Victoria Montoya. “I think that quote is kind of what we go by.”

rowens@ durangoherald.com