Robert Mavis enters tonight’s Payson boys basketball scrimmage against visiting Florence with what may seem a modest goal for the upcoming basketball season.

“Our goal is to win more than we lose,” said the new Longhorns varsity head coach.

Sounds reasonable, until you take a look at the struggles the program has endured for more than a decade.

The team’s third new head coach in three years takes over a program that has produced nine consecutive losing seasons, according to records posted on azpreps365.com.

The Longhorns are coming off a 3-12 campaign, which was an improvement on an 0-18 2019-20 season. They’re 20-118 over the past nine years, including 8-76 the last five seasons.

Payson tips off the season at home against Fountain Hills on Tuesday, Nov. 30.

Mavis has only been involved with Payson High athletics the past couple of years, leading the JV boys basketball team to a 10-5 record in his first season a year ago. The freshman team also had “a good year.”

And he doesn’t want to dwell on the struggles the Longhorns have had for the last decade.

“I leave the past in the past because my philosophy is different than a lot of (coaches),” Mavis said. “I want to put pressure on the ball and shoot the ball. The only way we can win is shoot the ball. I want them to have fun and shoot the ball and play good team defense.”

He wants to run a fast-paced offense and play great defense.

“Pressure basketball for 32 minutes,” he said talking defense. “And I want them to shoot when they get an opportunity.”

Seven seniors

He said he’s been impressed with a roster featuring seven seniors – Gary Bingham, Jeremy Chavez, Jonah Clifton, Chance Hagler, Connor Hatch, Kellen Mills and Easton Redford; four juniors — Miguel Beltran, Caleb Marinelli, Jack O’Grady and Dexter Waterman; and sophomore Anderson Hatch.

Mavis emphasizes the team over individuals. He said the players are embracing the idea.

“There’s great team camaraderie,” he said. “No one stands out, so they play as a team, which I really like. They’re just really in sync with each other. That’s what I like about this team. Everybody knows what needs to go on. We’ll have five leaders on the court at all times.”

The guard-heavy roster will feature versatile players. “We’ve got to work as a team to crash the boards,” he said. “We’re all going to have to crash the boards.”

Mavis wants everyone to be able to play any role, any position when needed. He said needing to move a small player into the post when a player missed time with COVID-19 made him realize how important it was to have players who can fill in for a player who’s not available.

“Everybody has to know every position,” Mavis said. “I learned that last year when I had to play one of our small guys in a position he wasn’t familiar with when one of our guys wasn’t available.”

Athletic upbringing

Mavis was born in Casa Grande the youngest of six kids. His father, Joe Mavis, was a coach. And his siblings “were all very athletic and I got to see and watch them perform and try to model myself after them,” Mavis said. “I was brought up in the gym.”

He was raised in Maricopa and graduated from Maricopa High in 1989, where he played football, basketball and baseball. He was an all-region shooting guard and was invited to play in the 1A-3A Arizona All-Star Game as a senior.

He earned a partial scholarship to Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont. but soon returned to the Valley.

“I went up there and realized the cold weather really wasn’t for me,” he said.

Payson the right place

He felt comfortable in the small town atmosphere he grew up in, which is a key reason he moved with his family to Payson three years ago.

“Coming from a small community out in Maricopa, a family oriented community, it was really cool,” he said. “I think that’s what made me move up to Payson.”

He said he’s loved coaching since his first job in Pop Warner Football in 1999.

“I did that through 2006,” he said. “Then I went into coaching basketball for a chapter of National Junior Basketball in the Gilbert area.”

His coaching staff includes JV head coach Jason Redford and freshman head coach Cameron Gudgell.

Boys, girls scrimmages today

Today’s scrimmages against Florence at Wilson Dome feature varsity only, with the girls at 4 p.m. and the boys at 6.

Tickets cost $7 for adults and $5 for seniors and students.

Contact the reporter at kmorris@payson.com

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