FAIRFIELD — Chris Minner has a good thing going in the Lone Star State.
Minner, a former Vacaville and Vacaville Christian high basketball coach, along with a short stint at Napa Valley College, is in his fourth year at the helm of the women’s hoops team at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio and is arguably having his best season ever.
The Saints, an NAIA Division I school, are 19-1 overall and 12-1 in the Red River Athletic Conference, including a perfect 12-0 record at home heading into Monday night’s game against Huston-Tillotson University.
Minner gives most of the credit to his full roster of players, who all get along well.
“It’s our defense and our depth,” Minner said in phone interview from San Antonio. “Last year, making the national tournament, it made them focus. We have a lot of returners. We force a lot of turnovers. They believe in the system and there’s no drama.”
The Lady Saints aren’t one of the taller teams in the RRAC, so Minner uses his team’s strength to his advantage.
“We press the whole game,” said Minner, who compiled a 62-24 record with the VCS boys team from 2005-08. “We trap and play man-to-man defense. We always have pressure on the ball, utilize our guards. We play bigger than we are.
“We wear teams down. We can go 12 (players) deep. We are hard to guard and our guards are fast. If they play a zone (defense), then we’ll knock down 3s. It’s hard to simulate a defense for us.”
The transition from a small-ish town like Vacaville to San Antonio, which has a population of more than 1.3 million, wasn’t too hard for Minner, who took over a brand new program.
“We started from scratch,” said Minner, who also won a Sac-Joaquin Section championship with the Vacaville girls. “Being in San Antionio helps. People want to come here to play. I find (players) who fit the system. We want kids that aren’t going to create any headaches.
“We find who works and who doesn’t. That’s how it all comes together.”
Minner also isn’t afraid to go out of state to find recruits. In fact, he currently has three players from the Sacramento area on this season’s roster.
“I do that every year,” he said. “I think the Northern California JCs and high schools are under recruited. I want to find people who want to come to Texas and play. NorCal coaches in high school and junior college respect what I do. When (players) get to San Antonio, they like it. It’s pretty affordable here (compared to California).”
One person Minner has respect for is Bob Fernandez, the current Will C.Wood girls coach and former bench mate at Vaca High.
“We are close,” Minner said of his relationship with Fernandez, who won a state title with the Bulldogs the year after Minner left. “Bob was my assistant (when they won the section title) and then he took over and kept it going. That was a good time. You have to have good players to be a good coach (like Fernandez).
“I’ve always wanted to be a four-year college coach. I didn’t want to look back and regret it. My goal was always to be a college coach.”
And a stellar college coach Minner apparently has become.