A life-long Warrior will be taking over the Del Norte boys basketball program next school year.

Del Norte High School announced last week that it has hired 1986 graduate Marc Slayton to take over the boys basketball program from Blaine Lopez.

Lopez coached the Warriors for five seasons.

“It is a privilege and it is an honor to get to coach at your alma mater, and to represent Del Norte High School,” Slayton said. “That is something special. I want to thank Coach Lopez for all he has done for Del Norte basketball, and as a mentor to me.”

Slayton has been a coach for the Warriors for over 20 years, serving as the head coach of the varsity girls basketball team in the late 90s and early 2000s. Slayton said he coached junior high basketball after that, and served on Lopez’s staff as the junior varsity head coach for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons.

Slayton said he and Lopez, who also graduated from Del Norte High School, have been friends since junior high.

“I used to shoot layups on him, and he used to shoot jump shots over me. So we go way back,” Slayton said. “Our philosophies are very similar because we both grew up in the same program. So, it should be an easy transition.”

Of course some changes can be expected as Slayton puts his own fingerprints on the program.

“Certainly I will do some things differently than Coach Lopez did — and that doesn’t make me right and him wrong or vise versa. It’s just personality,” Slayton said. “I will bring my personality into coaching just like he used his personality to try to get the most out of the kids.”

But the hard work and intensity that were staples of Lopez’s Del Norte teams, especially on the defensive end, will stay front and center for the Warrior program.

“One of the things that has always been a tradition at Del Norte, especially in the basketball program, is that we play hard,” Slayton said. “We are going to get after you defensively and that is what I hope to continue. That is the one thing that we will demand out of the kids in the program because we represent such a great community.

“I know that term is used a lot around here, but the community supports us so well. Those are things that you tend to appreciate later in life now that I look back on it. Just how well the community supported us when I was a student at Del Norte High, and that same support is going strong today.”

Slayton said he hopes to reward that community support with a team that gives its all, and is perennially in the running for a Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 championship.

“Our goal will be the same goal that we have every year — play hard, compete, and compete for a league championship,” Slayton said. “That is our ultimate goal every year, then we will let the playoffs lay how they are. Our main goal is going to be to compete for a championship.”

Although Slayton didn’t coach the junior varsity team last year, he is already familiar with most of the players on next year’s varsity after coaching the JV squad the previous two seasons.

“I’ve had pretty much all of these kids at the junior varsity level in basketball,” Slayton said. “I coached Damien (Dowd) and Omar (Banuelos) as freshmen before they moved up (to the varsity) as sophomores, and a few of the other kids I had in their sophomore year. It is a group of kids that I have been around, and have high expectations for.”

But in order to reach their full potential, Slayton said the Warriors will need to put in the work.

“They will play hard and they will get after it. Hopefully they mesh as a group, and they can do something special,” Slayton said. “The potential is there to compete at a very high level. They are going to have to put in a lot of work, a lot of effort, and they are going to have to use that month of December to get better. If we do that we will be right in the thick of things in the Big 5 and we will try to win a championship. But in doing that we will represent our school well.”

Although the start of the 2019-20 season is still more than six months away, Slayton said the team will start getting to work soon.

“I’m hoping to get together with the team sometime in the next couple weeks and set up our summer schedule,” Slayton said. “We will try to go to a couple tournaments. Right now we are planning to play a tournament up in Brookings and we are trying to get into a second one. We will also play summer league down in Humboldt County like we have done in the past, and we will have open gyms. Hopefully we can get the kids out in the gym and improve on their skills.”

In addition to coaching basketball, Slayton has served as an assistant coach for the Del Norte football team off and on over the past 25 years. Slayton played both basketball and football for the Warriors when he was a student at Del Norte.

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .