Rob Walker

LaPorte girls basketball coach Rob Walker consoles senior Kayla Jones after she was taken out of the regional final against Penn on Feb. 15. Walker was recently named as the new head boys basketball coach at Poston Butte High School.

SAN TAN VALLEY — Under normal circumstances, a new coach will hold a face-to-face meeting with his team to get to know the players better.

However, we’re living in far from normal circumstances and in what has become the new normal, Poston Butte’s new boys basketball coach Rob Walker’s first meeting with his players is going to be through the popular video conferencing software called Zoom.

“Normally you get a chance to have a meeting and meet the players, especially before summer basketball,” Walker said.

Walker has been a head basketball coach for the past 16 years including eight years as both a girls and boys basketball coach. He’s been the head girls coach at LaPorte High School in La Porte, Indiana — located between Gary and South Bend in the state’s northwest corner near Chicago.

“I knew I was going to coach somewhere in some capacity,” Walker said. “We were going to move to the Phoenix area because my wife was wanting to relocate there and start a second career for a while and get our kids out of the house. So I thought this was the perfect time.”

Walker first applied and was accepted for an open science teacher position at Poston Butte. At the time of his accepting the teaching position, there were no open basketball coaching positions.

However, that changed when Mike Christenson resigned at the end of the basketball season.

Poston Butte Athletic Director Noel Nafziger said the reasons for Christenson’s resignation were personal and that with his kids getting older, he wanted to spend more time with them. Nafziger added that Christenson will continue teaching at the school and will continue to run student council.

“It’s obviously a major commitment of his time. The way it is now, all of our coaches are year-around,” Nafziger said. “I think Mike did a really good job in his three years, made the state tournament twice.”

Last year the Broncos finished 15-12 and lost to Phoenix Thunderbird in the 4A play-in game. Meanwhile Walker’s Slicers were 19-8 on the year and made a deep run in the Indiana 4A girls basketball playoffs.

“I did my research and I thought it was one of the better fits for me — very similar to size with the current school I’m at,” Walker said.

He added that he will remain in Indiana until his contract is up at the end of May and then begin the move to Arizona, where he already has a house in Mesa.

Walker said he’s hopeful to have somewhat of a normal summer conditioning but said he will have to wait and see how things play out.

In the meantime, like a majority of teachers around the country, Walker said he’s had to teach online, which he admits is difficult because what he teaches is a lot of hands-on learning.

“I would say it’s challenging for me because I do a lot of hands-on classes. I teach agriculture and there’s a lot of labs so that’s my strength,” Walker said. “(Kids) want to do hands-on learning so they gravitate toward that.

“(The distance learning) is working out. You don’t get to interact with kids, which I like to interact with kids every day. You do get some interaction with the e-learning, but you don’t get to see them in person. That is a challenge.”

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