The spirit of Geronimo<br><i>Longtime hoops coach likes challenge of smaller school</i>

Staff photo by Beth Finne

VINCE Randall's coaching career dates back to the 1950s. This season, he's heading Clarkdale-Jerome's girls team.

After all, it is Geronimo himself whom head coach Vince Randall credits as one of his heroes.

“Geronimo, with a band of only 15 men held off 5,000 cavalry troops,” Randall said.

Vince Randall may have been feeling a little bit like Geronimo when he started this season with only seven girls on the team. Now with a mere five days of practice under their belts and three more players, the Rams have bravely begun a new season.

But Randall isn’t worried about the small size of the team, because according to him, “Numbers don’t win the game, the heart does.”

Geronimo!

Randall knows a thing or two (or three or four) about coaching small teams in the Verde Valley. Born and raised in the area, he coached his first basketball team in 1958 at Clarkdale, and has kept the ball dribbling ever since.

With the encouragement of his wife Erie, also the assistant coach, Randall has taken on something different this year – coaching girls instead of boys.

“It’s a new challenge for me and I love challenges. My wife told me that we would have small numbers but I enjoy that role,” Randall said. “It has been with a minimum amount of boys in the past, and we’ve played schools that have been much bigger than us and have beaten them.

“I love to take on a group of dedicated athletes, and by the end of the season they will have earned respect.”

The fact that coach Randall is working with girls this season won’t change his philosophy or style of coaching – a style which has brought him five state championship teams at Clarkdale-Jerome. According to Randall, each player brings his or her own particular talent to the team to complete a circle.

“I’m also coming from my Indian way of life to complete the circle,” says Randall. “Put the talents into the circle and it will roll.”

With combined coaching careers spanning more than 40 years, the Randalls have the new season off and rolling with a young team, but one which promises hope for future teams. Clarkdale-Jerome lost its opener earlier this week to Camp Verde but came back to beat Cottonwood Middle.

Coach Randall plans on instilling pride and tradition to his players – something that is important in a small school environment. He has a fresh example to point to as the Rams placed second in the state tournament a year ago, the best-ever finish for a girls basketball team from the school.

Randall also believes in building discipline on the court in order to build respect. It is by building the respect that he gains the loyalty and trust of his players.

“The other thing too is to be right up front with my players,” Randall says. “By being so truthful with them, the respect they have for the coach is such that a five-star general has from his troops … and the troops will follow you anywhere.”

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