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Chris Lewis joins Coyotes as assistant basketball coach

It’s been a long time since Weatherford College men’s basketball coach Mark Osina had an assistant coach.

Coach Chris Lewis 2018Not since 2008, to be exact.

Then, Osina’s good friend, Tim McGraw at North Lake College in Irving, made a recommendation. He suggested Chris Lewis would be a good assistant to bring aboard and end that streak.

“Not only does Chris have the experience of working for a winning program, he has proven himself at a high level of basketball as a player,” Osina said. “We are lucky to get him.”

Lewis was an assistant at North Lake for five seasons, his last being in 2017 when the school won a NJCAA Division III national championship.

“Winning a national championship at any level is a special feeling,” Lewis said. “More than anything I was happy for the players because at the end of the day they were the ones that put in the hard work and came together as a team to accomplish the ultimate goal. I had the opportunity to work with some great coaches, and I know how much work we all put in daily to give that team the best chance to be successful.

“I hope to show the players we have here at Weatherford how hard it is to win and the type of work you have to put in to be successful. It takes everyone buying into the goal and playing for each other to even have the chance to accomplish great things.”

Which is what Lewis did at North Lake, McGraw said.

“Chris played a big part in us winning the 2017 national championship. He always had good fresh strategy ideas,” McGraw said. “Since he played at both NCAA D-I level and professionally, he had a great perspective he brought to help our kids see what they needed to improve on.”

Lewis, a 2005 Hurst L.D. Bell graduate, played four seasons at the University of San Diego, earning a spot on the all-conference freshmen team in 2006 and being a 2007-08 Scholar Athlete of the Year. Also, in 2008, his team upset the University of Connecticut in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

And don’t tell him there are too many teams making the NCAA Tournament.

“I don’t really agree that there are too many teams in the tournament. I don’t know what the right number is, but you can guarantee that every year someone will be disappointed that they didn’t get in,” he said. “The great part about the tournament is that it gives an opportunity for the smaller schools to compete on the same level as the bigger ones. Every year there are upsets and Cinderella stories. That is what makes it one of the greatest sporting events in the country.”

And he has professional experience. He played professionally in Sweden after graduating from USD.

“It was a really cool experience to not only get to play basketball at the professional level, but also experience a different culture and meet people from another country that I otherwise would never meet,” he said.

Lewis came to Weatherford after serving one year as assistant coach at the University of Providence in Great Falls, Montana.

“We had an OK year, but we didn’t quite reach the full potential of where I believed the team could have gotten to,” he said. “We were in a very competitive conference that sent multiple teams to nationals, and we even beat some of those teams that were ranked, but we weren’t able to consistently play at the level needed to be in the top tier of the conference. It was a great learning experience, and I definitely grew as a coach being there.

“What attracted me to Weatherford was the fact that it is in one of the best conferences in the country as far as the junior college level goes, and I like the challenge of coaching against some of the well-established programs that make it to the national tournament on a regular basis. Another reason was the chance to come back and coach close to where I grew up. I have a lot of family and friends in the DFW area, as well as good relationships with coaches in the area.”

His father is originally from Texas and joined the Navy out of high school, serving for 20 years. He would travel to watch his son play, even when Chris was playing in San Diego, before passing away in 2011 from Leukemia.

Lewis’ mother is from Maryland and played volleyball at University of Maryland.

“I definitely got my competitiveness from her,” Lewis said. “She was always in the stands at my games yelling for us to play defense or get a rebound.”

He has two brothers, both of whom graduated from Bell. His little brother also played basketball for Bell.

Lewis noted there are many changes from when he played, even though it has not been that long ago.

“There are definitely changes from when I was playing. A lot of that is due to the evolution of the game itself. There is a vastly larger emphasis on perimeter play and being able to shoot from outside regardless of position,” he said. “We really don’t see a lot of guys who can only play down low and post up. Now you have to also be able to step away from the basket and still be a threat to score.

“I also think the popularity and use of social media has really changed from when I was a player. Athletes can market themselves to coaches in a variety of ways and try to get recruited, but it has also helped coaches in evaluating players. I can type a kid’s name in a search and get his Twitter, Facebook and highlight film all within minutes.”

And while he loves being an assistant coach, like most his ultimate goal is to lead a team of his own someday.

“There is no question he could be a great head coach,” McGraw said.

“I think anyone who is a competitor would love the opportunity to be a head coach and have the chance to run their own program,” Lewis said. “I have been fortunate enough to work for coaches that encouraged me to take on bigger roles and let me grow as an individual.

“I can’t say I have a certain timetable on when I’ll get an opportunity to lead a program, but I know that I can prepare and better myself as a coach so I’ll be ready when that time comes. I’m just a competitive person by nature, so I enjoy competing in anything from bowling to board games.”