The Alleman High School basketball team needed a big change.
After a 0-9 season that ended with coach Scott Verstraete resigning in July, the Pioneers were left looking for a way to rebound.
The Pioneers hope coach Larry Oronzio is their answer.
Oronzio will be taking over a team that was outscored 621-278 in just nine games during the pandemic-shortened 2021 season. Its three leading scorers, Cameron Wallace, Rico Byrd and Ryan Dockery-Jackson, will not be returning.
But Oronzio has been in situations like this before.
“He has been at a few different schools that he has been able to very quickly turn around,” Alleman athletic director Grant Iles said. “The schools that he has been to have been in need of a rebuild and he has demonstrated a very quick and impressive change in culture and record in very short times.”
Oronzio most recently held a head coaching position at Antelope High School in Welton, Ariz., where won a combined 27 games in two years before moving with his family to Iowa. In the five years before Oronzio took over the head coaching position, Antelope had won only 29 games.
“That’s the position we are in right now,” Iles said. “We need a renewed energy. We need a change in culture and I think Larry is exactly the person who can come in and make immediate and drastic change for our program.”
Oronzio will have to teach a roster with little experience. The only returning player who scored points last season, according to a roster Oronzio was given today, is Jackson Praet, who averaged 0.9 points per game. But the inexperience doesn’t bother the new coach.
“I love the challenge,” Oronzio said. “I try to build the players up with fundamentals and not focus so much on what they can’t do, but focus on what we can do. Let them go out and have fun. Practice will teach them, but the game they go and have fun and we will try to correct mistakes on the sidelines. Most of the mistakes are going to be corrected at practice.”
One of the biggest changes Oronzio and Iles wanted to make with this hire is changing the culture of the program. Iles feels the mood surrounding the basketball team needs to change if they are going to see success.
“I want us to have energy,” Iles said. "I want us to have positivity. I want us to have a belief and place that we belong and can compete in the Western Big 6. I just feel like that’s something that has been lacking in years past.”
Oronzio echoed the same thoughts on what he felt needed to be iterated into the players’ minds as preparation for the season gets underway.
“Be positive. I know they didn’t win a game last year,” Oronzio said. “I haven’t met any of the kids yet, but I’m going to remind them to have fun and get a little better every day. The wins will come. As long as we focus on working hard and having fun and getting a little better every day, we will be fine.”
Despite all the uncertainty within the basketball program, Iles is confident in the hire.
“He is exactly the person who can come in and make immediate and drastic change for our program," Iles said.
Alleman is scheduled to start its season against Princeton at 7 p.m. Nov. 30 at Princeton High School.