A 5-foot-8 kid who hardly played hoops in high school becoming a Division I coach? That’s a tough one. Michael Dominguez, the son of a Tucson Police Department sergeant, believes he can be tougher than those odds.
Dominguez was a senior guard in the 2013-14 season, and he was not even listed on the Nighthawks’ roster that included Mitch Lightfoot (a sophomore that season).
“I wasn’t super athletic or super tall,” Dominguez said. “Everybody wanted to go college and go pro. I felt when I was a player, I was the one directing stuff. I knew what to do. I was always asking questions.
“In a way, I feel like I was being groomed to be a coach.”
Grooming him at that time were Pima coach Brian Peabody, who was Ironwood Ridge’s coach for six seasons up to 2012-13, and Peabody’s former assistant there, Mark Schumaker, who is now the head coach at Scottsdale Desert Mountain.
Mark Felix was Dominguez’s coach his senior year. In the season after he graduated, Dominguez remained at Ironwood Ridge and coached under Nick Widera.
That’s three different head coaches in three years at Ironwood Ridge and a strong influence from Schumaker, and Dominguez was not even 18 yet.
He then dabbled in AAU coaching as an assistant with the PowerHouse Hoops program in Tucson for a couple of years. All the while, he started the Dominguez Performance Group, designed to train youth basketball players and create highlight reels and development videos as well as professional head shots to enhance their recruitment by colleges while they played in high school.
Among the many players he lists that he has trained, Dominguez claims to have helped develop Majok Deng (Salpointe to Pepperdine), Lucas Elliott (Sean Elliott’s nephew from Pusch Ridge to Biola University), Jackson Ruai (Amphi to San Marcos), Evan Nelson (Salpointe to Harvard) and Kiya Dorroh (formerly of Sabino who has committed to Missouri).
Dominguez was also a contributor to the Internet recruiting Web site Prep Hoops Arizona, offering analysis and notoriety to boys and girls basketball players from the state to college recruiters.
“I was just trying to bring more more exposure to Arizona kids because this state is very undervalued when it comes to talent, at basketball at least,” he said. “So I was trying to help get some kids some exposure and hopefully get an opportunity to have them go to college for free.”
After taking Grand Canyon University online courses for three years, Dominguez had to physically attend classes his final year. While doing that in Phoenix, he was an assistant coach at Glendale Ironwood High School for one season.
Dominguez then joined the South Mountain Community College women’s basketball staff last season. He was hired in March as an assistant coach of Ottawa University, an NAIA school in Phoenix. Less than three months on the job there, he was called for an interview by Southern Arkansas women’s basketball coach Adam Collins, who is entering his third season leading the NCAA Division II program at Magnolia, Ark.
Drury University in Springfield, Mo., another Division II program, also inquired about his services.
All this attention for a guy who basically was part of a coaching staff for only three seasons — at Ironwood Ridge the year after his graduation, Ironwood in Glendale in 2018-19 and with South Mountain this season.
“I told Coach (Stephen) Moss at Ottawa about the opportunity at Southern Arkansas, and he said to me, ‘You need to look into it. You’re only 23 years old, and schools are calling you? Yeah, you need to look into it,'” Dominguez said. “I wasn’t really super interested. I was more like, ‘Let’s get Ottawa ready to go.’ So Coach Moss talked me into it.”
Dominguez and his girlfriend visited Southern Arkansas and Drury. After weighing each opportunity, he chose to coach at Southern Arkansas because he was promised the top assistant position.
Tips on Player Development:
-1 on 1 workouts are key
-Switch up the drills each workout
-Work on physicals just as much as skill (strength/speed)
-Every player learns differently
-Stay within the realm of your offense
-Everyone needs to be able to shoot
Collins was set to hire Dominguez without meeting him in person in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic before Dominguez and his girlfriend decided to visit Magnolia last week. They previously talked on the phone and had video meetings. Collins went so far as to give Dominguez a tour of the campus while face-timing. When they finally met, Dominguez signed his contract.
Enhancing Dominguez’s portfolio: his ability to market his players on social media, thereby making his ability to develop talent become known in coaching circles. It also helped that Peabody, Schumaker, Ironwood coach Jordan Augustine, South Mountain coach Byron Jackson and Moss put in a good word for him.
“(Collins) found out about me through social media, and something a lot of coaches have told me is to continue branding myself through social media,” Dominguez said. “People will take notice of you. When I was at South Mountain, we signed six or seven girls and I made a graphic feature on all of them, and I posted all that and made sure my followers knew about them.
“We’re getting the graphics out. We’re pushing them. It’s not only a matter of saying, ‘Hey, look at what we’re doing,’ as a school. That is important, but it is also a way to show what I could accomplish through a recruiting standpoint.”
Dominguez will move from his Tucson home to Magnolia in early July, his first coaching venture outside of the state.
He compares the experience to a student leaving the comfort zone and maturing away from home by going to college.
“We will be going from Tucson and Phoenix, where you have millions of people, to Magnolia Arkansas, where the population is 12,000,” he said. “It’ll be a culture shock, but you have to do what you have to do to continue advancing.”
The kid without the height and skills to play at Ironwood Ridge only six years ago, will continue to demonstrate at a higher level that he can recruit and coach young talent.
He envisions himself going from coaching in front of the few hundred fans at the W.T. Watson Athletic Center at Magnolia to being at ASU’s Desert Financial Arena in two years as an assistant coach for the Sun Devils.
Judging from how far he’s come at only 23 years old, who can doubt him?
“I would love to come back and work at ASU. I grew up liking that school. It would be like a dream come true,” he said. “I hope in 10 years, I am a head coach somewhere, doesn’t necessarily have to be Division I because I know that’s a long road to get to.
“A lot of how far I’ve come has been recruiting. A lot of my mentors have taken note of that and have said, ‘You don’t need to know anything if you can recruit. You’ll always have a job.’ I also just work really hard. A lot of people talk about the grind of being a coach. I love it. This is my life. I have to take it seriously but have fun at the same time.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.