Chargers alumnus earns position with UTPB

Isaiah Torres grew up around the game of basketball, and the sport is in his blood.

The 2015 Brownsville Veterans Memorial graduate went from watching his father, Lady Chargers basketball coach Arnold Torres, to playing for him and then to pursing his own career as a basketball coach.

“Sports were always a big part of my life, but basketball really caught my eye. I just always wanted to be around it, so coaching was a natural fit for me moving forward,” Isaiah said. “I always joked with my parents when they asked what I would do in college. I’d say, ‘I don’t know, I just want to do something with basketball.’ It’s something I’ve always had a passion for.”

Isaiah’s passion led him to the University of Texas at Austin, where he double-majored in applied movement science and sports management. He spent his last two years as a student manager for the Texas men’s basketball program under Shaka Smart.

Before graduating in May, Isaiah started looking at schools to continue his education and take “that next step to become a college coach” and serve as a graduate assistant. He spoke with coaches from schools across the country, and on Aug. 13 he accepted a graduate assistant position with the men’s basketball program at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Odessa.

“There are some graduate assistant programs where you’re still kind of treated like a manager… but the coaches here giving me the option to voice my opinion was really what stood out to me, and it got me really excited to be here,” Isaiah said. “They treat me like an assistant coach. I get to be a lot more proactive in helping shape and run the program. I’m in all the coaches meetings, they ask me what I think about certain things, and I even get to go on recruiting trips and scout other teams, so that’s really exciting for me.”

It isn’t a surprise to Arnold Torres or Chargers basketball coach Larry Gibson, who coached Isaiah in high school, that he’s following in their footsteps. They said the experiences he’s gaining at all levels of the game — Isaiah spent one month at the NBA bubble in Orlando working as a team attendant — under a variety of coaching styles will mold him into a well-rounded coach.

“You need to get a bunch of different opinions. No one coach knows it all,” Gibson said. “When I think about him going through all these different programs, I know it’s going to help him because the more knowledge you can gain, the better you’re going to be down the road. He was a coach on the floor (in high school), that’s why I liked him so much. Basketball is in his heart, and I think he’ll make a good coach one day.”

Isaiah said Gibson’s influence, and that of other coaches he’s had the privilege to watch, has shaped the type of coach he aims to be.

“I feel like every coach that I’ve had — Shaka Smart, Coach Gibson, my dad — they’ve all been really understanding of their players and there when they need them,” Isaiah said. “They’ve always had an open office and I really enjoyed that, because they’re there for you off the court and I think that’s important, that they can see you in a different light and not just as a coach, but as someone they can trust.”

Arnold said one of the first things Isaiah told him when he learned he’d be assisting with recruiting at UTPB is that he wants to use that opportunity to help Rio Grande Valley athletes, and the Lady Chargers’ coach will be leaning on his son’s knowledge of college programs to help his athletes.

“It’s great because it’s going to show me the college side of coaching and give me an opportunity to help our kids a little more as to what college coaches are looking for, what they’re interested in,” Arnold said. “This is a great opportunity for him, of course, but also for kids down here because … he said, ‘Now I want to see if we can get somebody from the Valley to play over here and show that the Valley has some good players.’”

Isaiah’s master’s program is in kinesiology with a specification in athletic administration. Being a college basketball coach is his primary goal, but he’s also interested in becoming an athletic director or coordinator in the distant future.

His new mentor will be UTPB coach Josh Newman, and Arnold believes Isaiah’s exposure to so many strong coaching figures will make him a successful coach, too.

“All the coaches he’s had have been very motivational and encouraging to their kids… even though they have expectations, they were very comforting to the kids, always open arms and willing to help,” Arnold said. “I think that’s the kind of coach he wants to be. He’s always thinking about how he can help different kids, and I think he’s going to be a very successful coach in that matter. I’m proud of him, and I’m glad he’s getting these opportunities to follow his dream.”