The new guy isn't an unfamiliar face.

With Monarch girls basketball coach Gail Hook taking a one-year hiatus to spend time with her ailing mother, three-year varsity assistant Chris Lewis will take the reins this season.

Lewis, 33, one of two candidates to receive a formal interview, has been the junior varsity coach and varsity assistant the past three seasons. The 2001 Colorado State graduate was the sophomore coach the year before that.

"The situation kind of surprised me, like it did a lot of other people," Lewis said. "But once I heard that Gail was stepping down for a season, my first inclination was, 'Man, I can't wait to coach that team.'"

Lewis said Hook encouraged him to go after the job and was helpful during the interview process. Naturally, Hook liked Lewis' familiarity with the program and believed he was plenty capable of holding down the fort.

"We've always had a good working relationship and I think he understands what we need to do to continue to be successful," Hook said. "He's been a big part of it the last four years of winning a league championship and getting to the final four, to the semifinals and getting into the championship game."

A perennial top-10 team in Class 5A, the Coyotes will be in a bit of start-over mode this season after a runner-up finish last winter. Senior standouts Alexus Johnson, Rebecca Richmond and Ashton Davis graduated and projected starting front-court player Mae Williams figures to miss most or all of the season with a knee injury.

In addition, senior Jac Malcolm-Peck is spending the season studying abroad.

With Hook having held down the job since Monarch's initial season of 1998, Lewis understands he's inheriting a high-profile role for a first-year head coach. But the Aurora Christian graduate doesn't have immediate ambitions of parlaying it into a full-time head-coaching gig.

"Right now, I'm just looking at this year and trying to prepare for the season," said Lewis, whose team can begin practicing Friday. "If you're successful at what you do, things will fall into place and they'll happen when they're meant to happen."

Hook doesn't sound like someone worried that she'll have to rebuild her program from scratch when she returns for the 2013-14 season. With most the Coyotes already familiar with Lewis, things should progress fairly seamlessly. 

“I don't think it will be a tough a transition. I think the dynamics are pretty much the same,” Hook said. “He's just a new face. I'm sure he'll have some different ways of how he's going to do some things, but all in all, he knows what he needs to do for our program to continue to be competitive.”

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