The Dean’s List: Cholla’s 11-year coach closing in on 200 career wins

Masai Dean Sr. has not aged much by appearance since his playing days at Tucson High School in the early 1990s, and his head coaching career spans only 11 seasons.

His coaching record, however, is one that is approaching legendary status.

Dean is 186-80 in his 11 seasons as the Chargers’ head coach after Cholla’s 63-58 win over Tanque Verde at Pima College’s West Campus Gym on Tuesday. The win puts the Chargers (7-5) in the Aztec Classic Silver Division championship against Mica Mountain (5-4) at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Dean, who played at Pima after his career with the Badgers, is only 45 which means he could reach 500 career wins if he coaches another couple of decades.

“It’s been a good ride,” said Dean, who is in his second year as the school’s athletic director. “I really enjoy working with the admin, the kids and the different staff members. It’s been great.”

The ride now includes coaching his youngest son, junior guard Masai Dean Jr., after coaching two other sons — Marcel and Dyre.

Marcel became one of the Chargers’ top players historically during his career from 2014-18. Now playing at Kansas Wesleyan, he finished his career with 1,314 points and enjoyed a record of 81-24 with his dad at Cholla.

The elder Dean experienced success at the outset of his career at Cholla after the Chargers did not have a winning season in the seven years prior to his arrival.

His first team in 2011-12 was 17-11.

Cholla won 87 games in his first four seasons, including a 25-2 record in 2014-15 when the Chargers reached the state quarterfinals with high-scoring playmaking guard Jorge Carrasco as the leader.

Masai Dean Sr.’s Coaching Career at Cholla

2011-12 — 17-11
2012-13 — 22-9
2013-14 — 23-8
2014-15 — 25-2
2015-16 — 15-10
2016-17 — 19-5
2017-18 — 22-7
2018-19 — 18-5
2019-20 —13-9
2020-21 — 5-9
2021-22 — 7-5
Total — 186-80 (.699)

He has only one losing season in his tenure and that was last season when COVID-19 protocols impacted the Chargers. They finished 5-9 in the shortened season.

“Last year was a tough year COVID-wise but this year has been fun,” the elder Dean said. “These guys are pretty good group.”

Masai Dean Jr. scored 25 points in the win over Tanque Verde. His playmaking ability fearlessly handling the ball and driving to the basket helped ignite Cholla in the second half after the Hawks took a 10-point lead.

He was at the forefront of Cholla’s full-court pressure defense that led to turnovers and easy layups.

“I feel like I’ve developed a lot the last three years on varsity,” the younger Dean said. “I came from being a sharpshooter as a freshman to having to handle the ball as a sophomore and having a big role as a junior. I had no choice but to develop the right way.”

That development is impacted by the intensity of the elder Dean, who coaches the same way he wants his son and the Chargers to play — with constant energy.

Standing next to his dad during an interview, the younger Dean was asked about what it was like playing for his dad.

“It has its ups and downs but a lot of ups,” he said. “He’s definitely extra harder on me but it makes me better at the end of the day.”

“You probably have to ask him that when I’m not standing here,” the elder Dean said with a laugh.

Masai Dean Sr. is in his 11th year as Cholla’s head coach and 14th year at the school overall (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Masai Dean Jr.’s playing style is obviously impacted in a positive way from his dad’s coaching. The younger Dean has a noticeably high basketball IQ with how he handles pressure and finds open teammates following his penetration.

“I grew up around different teams and what it was like to be good and what it was like to be bad,” he said about his basketball upbringing with his dad and brothers. “I tried to pick up everything that I could growing up and put it into my game now that I’m grown up.”

The pride the elder Dean has coaching at Cholla brings more purpose to their relationship on the court. He mentioned that although he graduated from Tucson High, he considers Cholla “home.”

Sean Elliott was an idol of his growing up in Tucson and he now coaches in Sean Elliott Gym. After graduating from Cholla in 1985, Elliott starred at Arizona from 1985-89 when the elder Dean was in middle school.

Masai Dean Sr. was an English teacher at the school before becoming the athletic director last school year. His coaching career started in 2008-09 when he coached Cholla’s freshman team.

“All my sons have graduated from (Cholla) and I’ve had a bunch of kids go through our basketball program,” he said. “It’s home. It’s nice to have it come full circle with (the younger Dean) coming around his last couple of years and be able to share that with him. It’s a good deal.”


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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District

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