While it will be their first time to be on the same high school staff, working together will be nothing new for Benton head boys basketball coach Todd Martinez and his wife and new assistant coach Toni.
Basketball brought Todd and Toni Martinez together.
“We were refereeing youth sports at the YMCA and that’s where our relationship started,” Toni said. “And we worked together through the Y for about 10 years refereeing youth sports and working camps. We were at (Captain) Shreve together.
“It’s been very familiar to us. Everything we can possibly do even though we’ve been apart for the last 15 or 20 years we try to do that together. Heck, even when I was at Byrd and he was (head boys coach) at Shreve we went to a tournament with our boys and girls team together in the same bus.”
For the past five years, they’ve run the Faith basketball program.
“I get that for a lot of people it’s unusual,” Todd said. “But for us it’s kind of been the norm.”
Todd Martinez announced Toni as one of two additions to his staff starting in the 2020-21 season in a Facebook post Saturday night. The other is Jeff Wiese, who will serve as a CECP assistant. He had the same position last year at Airline.
Randy Ward is stepping down from his position as boys assistant. His son, Ryan, will complete his high school basketball career this season. Ward is the husband of Benton girls coach Mary Ward.
Toni Martinez also comes from Airline where she was an assistant under Lyndzee McConathy the last two seasons.
Before that, she was the head girls coach at Byrd for 10 seasons. She was also a women’s assistant for five seasons under Ronnie Howell at LSUS after serving as girls head coach at Captain Shreve for one.
A former Byrd player, Toni began her career as an assistant there.
Todd has been the boys head coach at Benton the last two seasons after serving in the same position at Captain Shreve for 17 years.
While men coaching girls and women’s teams has long been the norm, the same can’t be said for women coaching men’s and boys teams.
Currently, there are no women’s head coaches and 10 assistants in the NBA. According to a September 2019 story in Sports Illustrated, “among the 1,400-plus full-time coaches in Division I men’s programs, there is only one woman.”
While it’s a bit more common at the high school level, it’s still unusual.
Neither Todd nor Toni expects it will be a big issue at Benton, though.
“Basketball is basketball whether it’s boys or girls, and she knows basketball as well as anybody around,” Todd said. “The challenge that’s out there is whether or not she will be accepted by the players and the community. The good thing is she’s been around our program for the last two years. They know her. It’s not an outsider they coming in that they don’t know.
“And the other side is from a community standpoint that we feel real positive about is Meredith Clark coached the seventh- and eighth-grade boys last year at the middle school. So having a female coach coaching boys is not new to them. And just from a realistic standpoint and an a actuality standpoint it’s been going on for years forever with men coaching females.
“Once the boys know how much she knows and how’s well she understands the game that won’t be an issue for our guys. Plus we have great kids. And that’s a key part of it as well. They’re very respectful and understanding and they want to learn and want to get better. They’ll understand real quick that she is there to make them better.”
Toni said there will always be challenges in coaching, but the confidence her husband has shown in her means a lot and should smooth the way.
“It shows from him the guys that he has such confidence in me that I don’t think it’s going to be an issue at all,” she said. “And I’ve even seen that more here lately. I haven’t even told him that. But it definitely is a compliment that he believes in me so much to do the job. And I think that that folds over to the guys and what they’re going to think.
“I don’t really think we’re going to miss a beat. I think whatever challenges lie ahead of us we can just tackle together and move on. I feel like he does. Basketball is basketball. It’s just a different gender and you approach things some different ways.
“But I think my experience coaching girls can help in some different aspects. I can also learn along the way. We’ve both been coaching a long time but I’m always willing to learn new things and definitely up for different challenges.”
She looks at it as a great opportunity.
“I think I’m going to enjoy the journey while we’re here,” she said. “I’m excited about it. New adventure. I can still learn a lot from my husband. And to be able to have our family in one place. That’s just irreplaceable for me. It’s a season of light for us. We’re definitely excited about it.”
While she was there for only two seasons, Toni said she is thankful for her time at Airline.
“I definitely enjoyed my time there,” she said. “Like I talked about season of lights, that was a season of light that I needed. We moved our family over to Bossier and Lyndzee McConathy kind of stepped in and gave me that opportunity which I really wasn’t expecting at that time.
“God works in mysterious ways and He knew I needed that. We needed that for our family and we really worked well together, me and Lyndzee. We were definitely on the same page a lot. I really, really enjoyed my time there with the girls and with that program and with the school. And just treat that as a journey in my life I will never forget.
“I grew from that. And being able to step down from a head coach to go back to an assistant, I learned new things. I think it taught me how to be a better assistant. I think it’s going to teach me in the future if I ever get the chance to be a head coach again it’s going to teach me to be a better head coach. I really appreciate that. I appreciate Lyndzee for all she did for me and my family while I was there.”
Todd has also been appreciative of the support he and Toni have received since he made the announcement Saturday.
“We want to say thank you to all the folks who have reached out since (Saturday) night,” he said. “We’ve had coaches on every level contact and one of the ones that really stands out is (men’s assistant) coach Jeff Moore from Northwestern (State).”
Todd said he’s obviously been aware of the husband-wife women’s basketball coaching duo Brooke and Scott Stoehr who went from NSU to Louisiana Tech. Moore told him about NSU women’s soccer co-head coaches Jess and Anna Jobe.
“Just the encouragement from that and people reaching out,” he said. “Because you never know how it’s going to go over and the response has been overwhelmingly encouraging and we’d like to thank everybody that has done that as much as we can and when we see folks we’re certainly going to say that. It’s been more overwhelming than we could have ever imagined from a Facebook post. I never expected that and I don’t think Toni did either.”