For John ‘Patrick’ Shellman, life changed in an instant.
That’s because what started as a joke swiftly turned into a career change. Shellman, who had a coaching connection to Jal, saw that the Lady Panthers girls basketball team was looking for a head coach after Dusty Loftis stepped down. While en route to a club basketball tournament in San Antonio on the Thursday before Father’s Day weekend, Shellman made a joke on Facebook about the job opening. The next day he was on the phone with Jal superintendent Brian Snider, discussing the possibility of being the person to succeed Loftis. The following Monday, Shellman was in Jal, talking with Loftis about possibly being hired for the job. He verbally committed that afternoon and was moving, along with his eight-year-old son, to Jal from Anson, Texas on Tuesday of the following week.
From social media joke to done deal.
“It happened pretty fast,” Shellman said, “but man, it just fit. Everything just fit.”
“He came in to us with his résumé,” said Loftis, who also resigned the Jal athletic director position but will remain as Jal High School principal. “He had a lot of experience in the club world, and he was very enthusiastic about trying to build a program up and sustain a program, and that was something that we were really interested in. And also he was really interested in the community of Jal, and that was of value to us as well.”
With roots in Compton, California and experience in the military, Shell-man coached basketball at Abilene Christian High School for almost 20 years. He found his way to Big Spring, Texas when his ex-wife, who was coaching there, asked him to coach a club team in the area.
“We had kids from all over,” Shell-man said. “I had kids from over here (in Jal), I had kids driving four hours to come and train with me and practice.”
That experience would eventually help Shellman land the Jal position.
“He has a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of resources that he can reach out to,” Loftis said. “He has a lot of connections into Texas and I think that network that he can bring from Texas, and combine that with New Mexico, I think that’s going to be very valuable to the program.”
Shellman seems like a good match for the job. Still, it was a surprising turn in his life, providing a distinct change from what he was doing full-time most recently – working with heavy machinery in the oil fields.
“They did a great job of recruiting me,” Shellman said of Jal. “The perfect storm came when they came to get me. My intention was never to come back to a school.”
Shellman won’t teach at Jal High, but rather work in maintenance there. As for coaching, he plans to put his stamp on the program, plans to bring a certain style of play. And, genteel it ain’t.
“We’re going to be old school,” he said. “We’re going to play fundamental, violent, physical basketball. It doesn’t mean we’re going to try and hurt anybody, but we’re going to play defense. You can’t come in here being soft with those teams. You’re soft and they’re just going to run right through you. You have to come out with a competitive edge, and hopefully we’re going to come out on top.
“We’re going to box out,” Shellman added. “We’re going to dive on the floor. Not that they didn’t do that before, but the style is a little bit different.”
“We’re going to push the tempo,” Shellman said, “but we don’t want to just jack up shots. We want to look for good shots.”
It will be a change in coaching styles along with a change in coaching personality.
“I’m definitely different,” Shellman said. “Very, very, vocal. I would say at times confrontational. But I’m a good dude, I work hard, and I love the kids I coach.”