They go way, way back, do these two coaches, so when Econ took on North Saturday, there was more at stake than just a key early District 31-5A tussle.
On one side was Kelly Garrett of the Lady Jags and on the other, Jenny Gaytan of the Lady Cougars. They were once teammates at The University of Texas-Pan American, guards who each brought something unique to the table.
Garrett was the floor general, a steady point guard who is still among the program’s career leaders in three-pointers, free-throw percentage and assists. Gaytan was a speedy defensive whiz who ranks in the top 10 all time in steals and threes. From 1995 to 1998, these two mentors plied their trade for the Lady Broncs, and though it hasn’t been that long ago, both said that it sure seems like it.
“I don’t really remember that much in detail actually,” said the soft-spoken Garrett when reminded of her playing days. “That was forever ago, wasn’t it?”
But the record books are there for the taking, and they reveal that the heady guard led the team in assists for three years, making 80 percent of her free throws in 1995. She hit 59 treys in four years, good for sixth all time, and ranks fifth in free-throw percentage (.713) and second with 292 career assists.
When Gaytan gives the Lady Coogs shooting advice, they’d best listen up, because the former Lady Bronc shot .371 on her three-point tries and made 48 in four years, tenth in program annals. She was the team leader in steals in 1998 with 44.
In the ‘90s, the program enjoyed a healthy supply of girls who would go on to become local coaches after their playing days. First there was Iris Garza, whom Garrett replaced as Econ mentor. Now coaching at P-SJ-A, Garza ranks in the top 10 in five categories, playing from 1991-93; she shot .707 from the line, had 225 assists and 161 steals, leading the team in assists twice, free throws made once, and steals once. On March 5, 1992, she was 7 for 7 from the floor and 7 for 7 from the line for 21 points against Southwest Louisiana.
Garrett, who would follow her at the point for UTPA as well as at the helm of the Lady Jags, remembered Garza as a tough, smart player, and Gaytan agreed. North assistant Nora Smith added that Gaytan and Garza still play in various summer leagues.
“They can still get up and down the court,” Smith said of the pair, though Gaytan noted that she’s going to have to do some working out to get back into shape for the next campaign.
As for Garrett, the knee injury she suffered while at UTPA necessitated surgery a few years back, putting her on the sidelines. She still has a handle on the game however.
“I can shoot it, I just can’t move anymore,” she laughed.
But that’s not the end of the pipeline, as Lady Jag volleyball coach Celi Rios-Ortega, a star at Edcouch-Elsa, also played for Pan Am, pacing the squad in assists in 1992 playing alongside Garza. Her brother, Lalo, a legendary player at EHS, ranks in the top 10 in four Bronc career areas after a fine career in the mid-1990s, and has now coached the Jags for four-plus seasons.