Brett Lewis fondly remembers his first encounter with Jeff Lund, “this skinny white guy with a scraggly beard,” as he put it.
Lewis, then a junior on the 2003-04 varsity team at East Union High, walked into Dalben Center for practice and was taken aback by what he saw.
“There he was taking shots from the perimeter kicking his back leg out, flinging the ball from behind his head and putting this weird sideways spin on it,” Lewis said. “Everyone was like, ‘What the heck is going on and who is this guy?’
“Coach (Eric) Simoni introduced him as his new freshman coach.”
Ten years later, Lund is the new varsity head coach. And he replaces Lewis.
Lewis, 26, stepped down shortly after the 2012-13 season — his fourth as head coach for his alma mater — to accept a new job at Grainger Industrial Supply. Close to wrapping up his pursuit of a master’s degree in education, Lewis had hoped to land a teaching position by now.
“It came down to me having a house payment and health insurance was running out — I had to make decisions,” he said. “I didn’t want to step away from coaching because it’s one of my biggest passions, but a great opportunity came up and, bottom line, I had to do what was best for me.”
Fellow East Union alumnus Dustin Pfaff, helped set Lewis up with a job as a salesman for Grainger. They now live in Ronhert Park.
Lund, 32, enters his 10th year at East Union both as coach and teacher, the last seven spent as the head sophomore coach. He also writes outdoors columns that publish weekly in the Bulletin.
A native Alaskan, Lund graduated from the University of Arizona, majoring in journalism with a minor in athletic coaching. He had a class with current NBA player Channing Frye, who plays for the Suns. Lund’s coaching career began during his senior year at Arizona, serving as JV assistant coach for Tucson powerhouse Salpointe Catholic.
Although his two predecessors are East Union grads, Lund said he very much feels part of the family.
“From the start, Eric really involved me in the process and I felt very welcomed, which was nice,” Lund said. “Seeing how guys like Brett and Colt (Lee, a former EU player currently an assist) came back, I definitely get a feel for what it is to be a Lancer. I may not be a Lancer, but I never felt like I was an outsider.”
Brothers Colt and Cody Lee are helping Lund run the team through its summer program. Lund is in Alaska caring for his mother, who has successfully recovered from a brain aneurism. Lund said the coaching staff will remain the same, with several of his former players helping lower level head coaches Cody Lee and Chris Barnes.
Lund led the 2010 EU sophomore team to a Valley Oak League championship. He had a chance to take over the varsity program following the 2008-09 season when Simoni was promoted to athletic director. He is now vice principal at EU.
“It seems like it’s a natural progression to go from JV coach to varsity, but some guys are happy with being a JV coach,” Lund said. “I thought that was me and I still thought that way when (the varsity position) opened up again this spring. Then I got to thinking, ‘If I don’t do it now, when will I ever do it?’”
Lewis led the Lancers to a 62-44 record in his four years, qualifying for the playoffs while taking third in the competitive VOL in each of the last three. He was delighted to have the opportunity to coach his alma mater, but he is confident leaving it in the hands of that weird fellow with the funky shot (“He doesn’t really shoot that way, but he had me fooled for about a month,” Lewis said).
“He’s been a part of me and my growth as a coach,” Lewis said of Lund. “I learned a lot from him. Coaching the program for the last four years wasn’t all me, it was a great team effort by the staff. I’ve been telling everyone that Lund is the best JV coach around here, and he’ll do a fine job at the varsity level. The program is in great hands.”