Coach Sam Ballard has completed five seasons on the bench for the Thunderbirds in 2012-13, making the Division I playoffs in four of his seasons thus far.
Coach Sam Ballard has an extensive background in playing and coaching basketball at the high school, college, and professional levels. He has been involved in the game for over 40 years. A native of Phoenix, Ballard played interscholastically for legendary coach Royce Youree at East Phoenix High School.
From East, Coach Ballard went to Lee Junior College in Baytown, Texas, where he achieved All-TJCAA honors and then on to the University of Wyoming in the Western Athletic Conference. After trying out with the Portland Trailblazers of the NBA, he played professionally in France for five and a half years.
Coach Ballard began his coaching career at the Judson School, where in 1980, his team was Arizona Independent Athletic Association state champions and he was named AIAA Coach of the Year. He returned to East High in 1981-82 to assist his mentor, Coach Youree. That team went 23-3 and made it to the state quarterfinals. The next year, Coach Ballard went to Yavapai College to assist Dave Brown with men’s and women’s basketball, which had a combined record of 41-13. The women were NJCAA Region 1 champions and led the nation in team defense. He then took the job as head women’s coach at Yavapai from 1983 to 1985 and had a record of 42-15. The Lady Roughriders finished in the top 5 nationally in team defense both years and were Region 1 runners-up in 1984.
In 1985, Coach Ballard went back to coaching men as an assistant to another legendary Arizona coach, Bill Farrell at Paradise Valley High School. The 1986 PV team finished 20-6, won the Central Region and advanced to the state semi-finals. In 1987, he worked as an assistant coach at Phoenix College with Rob Babcock, who is currently the Assistant General Manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA. In 1989, Coach Ballard returned to high school coaching as an assistant to his mentor, Royce Youree at Camelback High School. In 1990, he took over as head coach of the Spartans and in seven years compiled a 107-69 record. In 1995, he was named Metro Coach of the Year. In 1997, Coach Ballard took the head coaching position at Mountain Pointe High School where in ten years he had a 171-90 record. He was Arizona Republic and East Valley Tribune Coach of the Year in 1998, and Central Region Coach of the Year in 1998, 2001, 2004, and 2005. In 2006, he was named Arizona Coach of the Year by Arizonavarsity.com, on the Rivals network. In 2008, he was an assistant at Grand Canyon University before accepting the Mesa position in April of that year.
In his four years at Mesa, Coach Ballard has compiled an impressive 97-51 record, including a 76-38 mark against ACCAC teams. In 2010 his T-Birds won the Region I Championship and Coach Ballard was selected ACCAC Coach of the Year.
Coach Ballard has a Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education from Linfield College in Oregon and a Master's Degree in Educational Administration from Arizona State University. He has been married for 37 years to his wife, Brigitte, who he met in France. She has taught French at Camelback High School since 1992, and also teaches French at MCC. They have three children: Jordan, who played basketball for Coach Ballard at Mountain Pointe and coached one year at MCC; Morgan, who graduated from the University of Arizona and is now the assistant sports information director at Grand Canyon University and Derrick, who played basketball at Camelback High School and MCC and is now finishing his collegiate studies.