(VYPE) – LeighAnn Wolfe admits that the first game against New Caney next season won't be easy.
Not only because battles between Wolfe's Kingwood Park team and New Caney are always quality district basketball games but because her good friend won't be sitting on the other bench.
New Caney coach Tricia Mize passed away on Wednesday night due to Stage 4 liver cancer, which was first reported by the Conroe Courier, leaving a son, Mason, and a daughter, Micha.
"For sure, it'll be tough," Wolfe said as she was overcome with emotion. "It sure will ... I'm sorry."
Wolfe and Mize first met when she was a junior varsity coach at Kingwood, while Mize was at Clear Brook High School as their JV coach. Over the years they stayed in touch, even when Mize moved on to Summer Creek High School.
At Summer Creek is where Angie McDonald got the chance to work with Mize.
It was McDonald's second year leading the program when Mize came on as an assistant coach. Mize spent three seasons with McDonald - who visited her on Tuesday - before moving on to New Caney.
"My heart's just broken," McDonald, who now serves as the Assistant Principal at West Lake Middle School in Humble ISD, said. "She made such an impact in players' lives. For me it was as an assistant coach but then she left and became a head coach and she really prospered. I was texting her this year because she was in the playoffs and winning and she had the opportunity of coaching her daughter this year.
"I remember texting her a few times, 'Please enjoy these moments'. She was so appreciative of being successful and then getting to do that with her daughter was a huge joy."
Mize's daughter Micha spent her freshman and sophomore year at Atascocita High School before joining New Caney for the 2019-2020 season.
"I'm so glad that she got to have Micha with her this year," Wolfe said. "I think everything happens for a reason and that was just perfect timing given the circumstances."
Backing up to just before the 2014-2015 season, Wolfe and Mize were brought back together again. Wolfe became the head coach at Kingwood Park, while Mize took over the New Caney program, which were district foes.
"I knew it was a battle every time we played, didn't matter her place or my place," Wolfe said. "It was going to come down to the wire. I would say the two games this year by far were the best. Even though I didn't win at her place it was still a great game. You can't look at it and say anything but that."
Mize built New Caney up from going 2-23 overall with a winless district mark the first year to making the playoffs in three of her final four seasons, including going 27-8 - including a playoff victory - and finishing second behind Huntsville in district this past year.
"Just watching her with that program, I mean just look at where it went from when she walked in the doors to what she got it to. That just speaks volumes right there," Wolfe said. "She is a competitor."
Multiple New Caney players took to social media on Thursday morning, including Tori Garza. She just finished her junior season playing for Mize and penned a beautiful poem, which was posted to her Twitter account with three other photos of the two together.
Between Wolfe and Mize, they would talk regularly, the Kingwood Park coach said. They would call each other and be happy about their wins or discuss the losses, Wolfe continued and knew she could always visit with her about basketball.
"I gave her a tough time after that last game at New Caney," Wolfe said. "I said 'Man, you pulled out all the stops because they had brought in a bunch of middle school students and it was so loud. It was a great game.
"Definitely somebody I'm going to miss talking to about basketball."
Mize's impact goes beyond the wins.
For Wolfe, it was seen in how Mize would work with the players and believes that her legacy that she has left behind is a special one.
"She's just a great person, just hands down a great person that cares about her kids," Wolfe said. "You can just see in the interactions with them. There's a thing called tough love and I think a lot of coaches have that but they ultimately knew that she cared about them. Not just basketball but cared about them as human beings. That definitely showed."
Rest easy my Friend. Tricia Mize helped me so much my first year as a Head Girl's Coach. She was my go to person. She knew what to say to the girls. I'm thankful we got to cross paths.— Elton Ervin (@CoachElton) April 23, 2020
2020 Coach of the year
Can we get a reset on 2020? pic.twitter.com/KxMncLwyUd
When asking McDonald for a Mize story there wasn't just one as she pondered.
The one she did bring up was about the time her father passed away and how Mize stepped up to help her during that rough time for her family.
"She was a great person to have on staff," McDonald said. "Loyal and someone you could count on. Worked really hard. My heart just breaks for her family."
As McDonald thinks about the future without Mize, that is what hurts the most.
It's the groups of new players each year that won't get to be taught by her. It's the lessons she won't get to teach and it's the person, not just the coach, that the New Caney community mourns today.
"To be honest the thing that breaks my heart the most are the lives she won't get to effect," McDonald said. "I hate it for them. She was a leader, she was the basketball coach but was also the campus coordinator and I know that she was respected amongst all the coaches. I was blessed to work with her and to see her flourish as a head coach was awesome to see."
"My heart's just broken. She made such an impact on players' lives." - Former @HumbleISD_SCHS coach Angie McDonald@NewCaneyGBB coach Tricia Mize passed away on Wednesday night. Today, the Houston community remembers her for more than basketball.— vypehouston (@vypehouston) April 23, 2020
READ: https://t.co/g4OLV9zS2F pic.twitter.com/0dAWgQUsZJ
Summer Creek coach Carlesa Dixon reflects on the death of Tricia Mize:
“I appreciate her commitment to the game of basketball, and I truly admire the strength and fight she had to give her all regardless of her situation. On behalf of myself and the Summer Creek Lady Bulldogs family, we send our prayers and thoughts to her entire community of family, friends and players.”