Chris Johnson (Minneapolis North), Chandler Sentell (Minnehaha Academy) and Tony Yazbeck (Cretin Derham Hall)—fixtures in the Minnesota high school boys’ basketball scene—were honored in March as 2019-2020 Assistant Coach[es] of the Year by the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association
The trio were among 10 selected for the honor, which recognizes the work of assistant coaches.
Johnson helped the Polars capture the 2016 and 2017 Class A state titles and also assisted Hall of Fame coach Larry McKenzie—the current head coach at North—during Minneapolis Henry’s four-peat championship run at the Class AAAA level from 2000-2004.
The 2016 team included former University of Minnesota standout football receiver and current NFL player Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Sentell, who starred in prep basketball at St. Paul Highland Park, assisted Head Coach Lance Johnson in leading the Redhawks to three consecutive Class AA state crowns on teams that had reigning Mr. Basketball and current Gonzaga freshmen Jalen Suggs and 7’0” Chet Holmgren, ranked as the number-one high school player in the Class of 2021.
Yazbeck has been coaching for the past 24 years and has been assisting for Head Coach Jerry Kline for the Raiders’ Hall the past eight years with the Raiders winning the Class 4A championship in 2018 on a team led by former Gopher great Daniel Oturu.
In addition, Yazbeck coached in the prestigious Howard Pulley Basketball AAU program that continually boasted some of the nation’s top high school boys’ basketball players.
Assistant coaches are the ones behind the scenes. They help the coaches and players achieve their goals and carry out the team’s mission, for which they are recognized on rare occasions.
I remember watching a film about football and race relations called Remember the Titans. In one scene, Head Coach Herman Boone (played by Denzel Washington) explains his role as head coach to Assistant Coach Bill Yoast (played by Will Patton).
“I have never seen an assistant coach’s name in the newspaper for losing a game,” the character says to emphasize his final say on all operations as head coach.
This column is to the contrary. Johnson, Sentell and Yazbeck are assistant coaches whose names ended up in the newspaper.
And deservedly so.
Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald is a contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.