Wendell Mulkey’s first coaching experience was in volleyball, a sport he’d never played and with which had no familiarity.
McCollum needed underclass volleyball coaches and Mulkey, fresh from two years as boys basketball coach at Pearsall, was willing to accept the challenge.
Cowboys volleyball coach Rose Ann Martinez was impressed by the former East Central basketball standout’s eagerness to learn the sport, the rapport he built with his players and that his freshman B team was undefeated.
Martinez, now the Harlandale ISD athletic director, hired Mulkey as Harlandale’s girls basketball coach in early June. He has been an assistant coach in boys basketball, football and track in his seven years at McCollum.
“At Harlandale (ISD)), we like to grow our coaches,” Martinez said. “Wendell has a lot of playing experience at East Central. He got to play under Stan Bonewitz.
“He has a lot of basketball experience and he was at McCollum seven years. I’m sure he’ll do well. His relationship with the kids (at Harlandale) is truly outstanding. They have a lot of fun with him.”
Although Mulkey never has been a high school girls basketball coach before, he’s not starting at Square One. He has been an assistant coach for the SA Finest AAU team the last two years.
His players included Harlandale grad Marlayna Frausto and Serina Hernandez, who’ll be a junior for the Indians this year.
“I want to help build a stronger basketball culture on the girls side,” Mulkey said. “When you look at girls athletics at Harlandale, volleyball jumps out — and a big reason for that is coach Sylvia Cardenas and now coach Anna Castro. When coach Cardenas retired and coach Castro stepped in, the program kept the same Identity — which plays a huge part in building that strong culture.”
Harlandale finished 15-15 overall in 2019-20 under Vicky de los Santos, who resigned in May after three seasons as coach. The Indians were fifth in District 26-5A with a 7-9 record.
“I knew working at Harlandale would be a great opportunity seeing those kids’ work ethic really made want to be a part of the Harlandale girls program,” Mulkey said,
One of the things Mulkey said he learned from Bonewitz — who won 539 games at East Central and is a member of the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame — is building a foundation for a successful program. He mentioned how he looked up to Hornets legends like Tony Terrell and Robert Keno.
Mulkey went on to a successful career at Texas A&M-Kingsville, which included a run to the NCAA Division II quarterfinals as a senior. He awas a Lone Star Conference South Division first-team selection that season.
“One of the biggest things Coach Bonewitz made us realize (was that) we weren’t just playing for ourselves,” Mulkey said, “we were representing the whole community and the players (that came) before us. You didn’t want to let down all those guys. That had a big influence on me being a successful high school basketball player.
“That is something I want the high school kids at Harlandale to experience and also the younger kids throughout the district. I want them to look up to kids like Julyssa Rodriguez, Serina Hernandez and Rozlyn Torres.”
Those players figure to be key components of this year’s Indians.