When Emily Dunn and her talented teammates defeated Fresno Christian 44-42 on March 6, 2009, in Fresno — to win the CIF Division 7 Southern Section basketball championship — it was a first for Coast Union.
As the 5-foot-11 senior watched her 5-5 teammate Lilly Takahashi sink two exceedingly clutch free throws as the clock ran out to seal the deal for the Lady Broncos, Dunn could hardly have imagined that seven years later, in 2015, she would accept a position as an assistant to head coach Tim May with the Broncos boys varsity team — another first.
Interviewed on a restaurant patio in the East Village on Saturday, July 23, Dunn recalled her 2009 championship team as being “really close.”
“We grew up together,” she said. “We developed a bond starting in first grade.”
Those strong bonds between her senior colleagues — Mackenzie Cunningham (MVP), Takahashi, Skylar Moon, Katy Carson and Ashley Grise — closely mirror the relationships on Tim May’s team today.
“I see that same bond with the boys. They grew up together, and I feel like they’re that close.”
The 2016-17 returning boys team features twins Jack and Sam MacKinnon, Roberto Cueva, Auggie Johnson, Jez Lawson and Nick Roper, all seniors; Riley Kennedy is a junior.
With Dunn assisting May, the Broncos last year went undefeated in the Coast Valley League (10-0) and outlasted a tough Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) team from Pasadena in a CIF Division 7 home thriller, 45-42.
Conditioning is one of the key reasons the varsity did so well last season, Dunn explained.
“The weight room is a big part of Tim’s program. And sprints and agility training; I feel like that really helped them. When you only have six players you have to get that stamina up.”
Earlier this July, Dunn and May took the team to a summer tourney in San Diego, and in the final game, Jack MacKinnon put on an exhibition of sports intensity and resilience, the kind of “never say die” tenacity coaches dream of.
“He goes crazy sometimes,” Dunn said. “I think that when he wants a rebound, he can rebound any ball he wants. It’s a weird knack he has. I don’t understand how he can just crash the boards. He has those long arms — he’s amazing.”
Dunn’s first experience with coaching boys basketball was at the middle school level; she was attending the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs — where she received her degree in psychology — and had a part-time job with the YMCA.
“It was really fun. I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m glad I had the experience there, which helps me now. It was just YMCA, but it was really competitive in Colorado — the parents came to all the games, and the stands were full.”
Prior to that experience, Dunn attended UC Irvine, where she contributed to the women’s varsity program as team manager and video coordinator.
“It was really a great learning experience,” she mentioned with the wide smile of a person doing what she truly loves.
In May of 2015, when May invited her to become his assistant, “I was so excited. It was awesome,” she said. “I felt really thankful that he invited me to this opportunity.”
As to her role with the team, she said she serves as a “second pair of eyes” for May, and she also takes part when a three-on-three or a four-on-four practice needs another player.
Asked for input on his assistant, May said in an email that Dunn provides “presence” and the intangible of “team chemistry ... which all coaches search for. The players immediately bought into her presence and her willingness to be at every practice and games.”
May added: “Players love having her around, and I enjoy their willingness to listen to her.”
Dunn said the boys accepted her when she first stepped on the hard court.
“They cracked jokes right away and saw that I could take their humor.”
When she began her assistant duties in 2015, Dunn — who hit on 64 percent of her shots, averaged 12.9 points per game, dished out 45 assists, grabbed 163 rebounds and had 36 steals her senior year at Coast — immediately related to why boys are successful.
“They work hard. That’s their biggest asset. They work so hard and are so competitive, and they always keep their heads up.
“They lost the first four games this summer (at the tournament) in San Diego, but they came back and won the last three games. It’s in them to be the best.”