Wade Turley steps down as Desert Hills boys basketball coach, leaving a winning tradition behind him

Desert Hills vs. Green Canyon, Boys Basketball, St. George, Utah, Feb. 23, 2018, | File photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Wade Turley started off as an assistant coach under Steve Melessa when the Desert Hills basketball program was started in 2008. Turley has been with the program since the beginning, moving into the head coaching role after four years with the team, and has established a culture with the Thunder.

After his eighth season as the head coach, Turley announced on Monday that he will be stepping down.

Desert Hills vs Cedar at Weber State University, Ogden, Utah, Feb. 27, 2020 | Photo by Ryne Williams, St. George News

“It wasn’t something that happened quickly, it’s something that I have been thinking about for a few years now,” Turley said. “After doing this for 27 years, you kind of know when it’s that time, and I had a pretty good feeling, even during the season, that this was probably going to be it.”

Turley cited family as the biggest reason for stepping down. His daughter, Tia Turley, was named the statewide tennis player of the year in Utah and will return to Desert Hills next year for her senior season. He’s looking forward to spending more time with her, but he also spoke highly of his wife, mentioning the sacrifices that the wives of coaches have to deal with.

“Coaches’ wives sacrifice quite a bit. People don’t quite understand that, but I feel like I owe it to her,” Turley said. “Then also spending time with my last daughter that’s living here in the house, my other four kids are done, so that was another factor. Helping her raise her game, being a part of that and building a good solid relationship with her. It’ll be more of a supportive role with her, but I’ll get out to the courts and hit balls to her, help her that way.”

The Thunder made it to the Class 4A semifinals this season before losing to the No. 1 ranked team in the state, Sky View. Their Cinderella run into the semifinals was filled with some amazing games, including an overtime win at Pine View, and some of the biggest contributors on that team are set to return next season.

Hurricane at Desert Hills, St. George, Utah, Jan. 28, 2020 | Photo by Dave Larson, St. George News / Cedar City News

Peyton Holmes, Reggie Newby, Justin Judkins and Keegan Munson will all be back for the Thunder.

Turley said that that returning group of players played a role in the possibility of him staying for one more season.

“For sure, that was definitely a factor for possibly returning one more year,” Turley said. “I look at it another way too, to me it’s a little bit of a good thing to step out and have a team like that returning for the new coach. They will have a lot to build on with that nucleus of players.”

As for his involvement in the program, Turley said it will depend on who the new coach will be, but he wants to help any way he can.

“We have one person on staff that would really like it (the head coach opening) so if that person takes over I imagine I would be a little bit more involved,” Turley said. “I don’t want to get in their way, but at the same time, I have a vested interest in the program. I’ve spent 12 years, all of the years Desert Hills has been here, as a part of the basketball program so I want to see it continue to be successful. If it’s somebody outside of the school I’ll do what I can to help them and help the kids be successful.”

When Turley was at Desert Hills, the Thunder went to the state quarterfinals in their second year as a program then followed that up with a trip to the semifinals and then a trip to the state championship game. He then took over as the head coach and the success continued. They’ve made it to the semifinals of state three times with Turley at the helm, missing out on the playoffs only once. Turley may be leaving the program, but a winning tradition has without a doubt been left at Desert Hills.

Crimson at Desert Hills, St. George, Utah, Jan. 14, 2020 | Photo by Dave Larson, St. George News

The Thunder have been in the upper half of Region 9 boys basketball almost every year since they opened their doors.

The biggest thing that Turley will miss about coaching is the development of his players and teams.

“Obviously you strive to get into the state tournament and do well, that’s always a goal,” Turley said. “Those times when you take a team, develop them, they improve and they are playing their best basketball at the end of the year, those are special moments.”

As for what he’s taken away from coaching, Turley said it has been the relationships he has made with players, coaches and people involved in the basketball programs.

“It’s a very humbling profession, you don’t get paid hardly anything to do it, but the impact that you can have and the relationships that can develop, to me that’s what I will take most away from the game,” Turley said. “I feel very humbled by the contacts that I’m getting from past players, it’s been amazing to hear some of the stories and memories. That’s something I’ll miss the most.”

The Thunder will be without a head coach for the time being but whoever is hired will take over a program that is in a great place for success next season.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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