Wade McVay wasn’t sure if the Sarasota High girls basketball coaching position would be open this coming season.
“Coach Jutras and I talked throughout the year. I knew he was 50/50, but I thought he was coming back,” McVay said.
However, when Rob Jutras stepped down as Sailors coach in late April, McVay immediately expressed interest in the position.
As Sarasota’s junior varsity girls basketball coach after spending 17 seasons on the Booker High bench, McVay was a natural to take over one of the area’s top programs.
Three weeks after Jutras stepped down, Sarasota director of athletics Mark Ashenbrenner named McVay girls basketball coach.
“Rob Jutras is a very good friend of mine,” McVay said. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have gotten the job. Very supportive.”
McVay has hit the ground running.
He put together a staff that included former Booker players Anna Traver and Kasie Huff, along with Ron Jones and Lucius Bonner.
This summer the Sailors have scrimmaged area schools, such as Palmetto, Bayshore, Riverview and Southeast. At the University of South Florida team tournament, Sarasota went undefeated in pool play, defeated Class 8A Final 4 participant Miami Senior and reached the final round of the Gold Bracket before losing to district rival Lakewood Ranch.
“I was happy with the way all the girls played,” McVay said. “We did really well with the transition phase.”
The transition for some Sailors will not be a tough one, since they are familiar with McVay as the junior varsity coach.
“It’s pretty much similar,” he said of his style compared to Jutras. “Everybody is different. I do it my way. The drills will be similar. I’m pretty personable. We’re going to run and press and getting into the transition game.”
With nine returners and three starters back, including senior center Madison Pack, one of the area’s top players, along with the return of Ja’da Bennett from knee surgery, Sarasota should continue as one of the elite teams.
“I’m expecting a big year,” McVay said.
The Sailors will continue working out, lifting weights, doing speed work and plyometrics throughout the summer, along with some team bonding activities, such as going to the movies, team meals and bowling.
McVay is planning theme nights throughout the year, such as breast cancer awareness, a tribute to 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and community awareness night.
All will take place in the Sailors’ brand new gymnasium.
“I’m very excited about taking over what I think is the best program around, a rich tradition,” McVay said. “I look forward to the change, leaving Booker after 17 years and coming to Sarasota. I’m excited about the situation and the players.”