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SoCalHoops Recruiting News

More Catching Up To Do:  Coaching Moves
In & Around SoCal--(Aug. 27, 2002)

As we've noted, our hectic schedule this summer really kept us away from the keyboard for a lot longer than we had planned. But we've been going through old e-mails, old newspapers, and other online resources, and there have been quite a few coaching changes.   We can't report on them all, but these are the ones we know about:

Switching Schools:  In one of the more surprising and high-profile college moves this summer, former Washington State men's basketball assistant Gary Stewart left the Cougars' staff to join the staff at UCLA as an administrative assistant. The move took Stewart from a No. 2 assistant's  position on the WSU staff into an administrative assistant job at UCLA.  And even though there was a noticeable drop rank and responsibilities in the college coaching heirarchy-- Stewart will no longer be able to recruit off campus -- he is also moving back to the Los Angeles area where he grew up, and where he has many friends and connections.    Also, Stewart and Bruins' head coach Steve Lavin have had a long relationship,  and many have speculated that the administrative position could eventually lead to Stewart moving into an assistant position if one of the other current assistants were to leave.   And while no one else has given any indications that they will be leaving any time soon, it's no secret that No. 1 UCLA assistant coach Jim Saia has applied for several head coaching jobs in the recent past, including job openings at Pepperdine and most recently the head job at Fresno State.  Stewart had been on the staff at WSU for three years and was primarily responsible for recruiting, mostly in Southern California. He was largely responsible for signing point guard Marcus Moore out of Compton Dominguez, as well as former Crenshaw point guard E.J. Harris, who has since transferred out of Washington State.

Switching Genders:  No, this isn't about a sex change, but Cal State L.A. has hired Gary Plunkett, a former men's assistant basketball coach, this time as an assistant women's basketball coach and recruiting coordinator.   Plunkett spent the last two seasons at Cal State LA as an assistant to head coach Dave Yanai.

Ventura To San Diego To NorCalFormer Ventura College men's basketball coach Virgil Watson, a Cal State Northridge grad, whose dismissal led to the scandal that left the school without a men's basketball program from 1997 to 1999, has been named the new head coach at Contra Costa College.   Watson has been the head coach for the past three seasons at Palomar JC in San Marcos, located in San Diego County.  Palomar was 55-36 under Watson, and compiled a 23-8 record last season, it's best ever in 40 years, since the 1962-63 season.  Palomar has hired Watson's top assistant, John O'Neill, to replace him as head coach there.   Watson, by way of background, was also a head coach at L.A. Valley College for a short time before replacing Ventura College women's head coach Ned Mircetic as former head coach Phil Mathews' top men's assistant at Ventura in 1990-91. Watson took a short break to do a stint as an assistant at UCSB under former head coach Jerry Pimm, but returned to VC a year later, in 1995 to take over for Matthews when he got the USF job.  That same year, Ventura won the State Junior College Championship, with a 34-2 record.  Watson's contract was terminated on March 11, 1997.   Shortly thereafter, the California Commission on Athletics and the Ventura Community College district launched an investigation into the program which eventually resulted in VC being stripped of two State titles, and the suspension of the program for two years. 

High School Hiring:  At the high school level, Bruce Victor, 50, has been hired as the new boys' basketball coach at Chaffey High this next season, where he will be a walk-on coach.  Most recently he was an assistant coach on the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 2002 SCIAC championship team, but he also has a wide variety of head coaching experience, including stints as head coach at Victor Valley, Southwestern and Porterville junior colleges, as well as Bassett HS.  He has also been an assistant at Cal Poly Pomona as well as with the USC women's team.  From 1987-88 he coached with Tel Aviv Maccabi, a professional team in Israel (where, coincidentally, USC's David Bluthenthal recently signed a professional contract to play this coming season).

Ramirez Out, Bowman In:   Brad Bowman, the assistant boys' basketball coach at Hueneme High was a candidate for the head coaching position this past spring, but was passed over when the job went to Joey Ramirez. But when Ramirez resigned this summer due to family commitments, Bowman finally got the head coaching job for the 2002-03 season.   Bowman, who lives in Carpinteria, had previously been an assistant basketball coach at El Molino High in Forestville, and an assistant at his alma mater, Cardinal Newman HS in Santa Rosa, in NorCal.

Espinoza Passing:  We neglected to write about this when it happened in late July, but we wanted to note it now.  Bob Espinoza, 66, who was hired in early July to begin coaching the boys' basketball team at Boys' Republic (a CIF-SS school, which is a youth authority school), died of a heart attack on July 20 while on vacation in Hawaii with his wife, Linda.  The Boys' Republic job would have returned him to his first head coaching job since 1997 when he was at Claremont HS.  Even though he had previously retired from Claremont in 1994 after suffering heart problems,  he spent one year at Claremont in 1997, and continued to coach at lower levels at Damian and Diamond Bar in 1998-2000.  Espinoza grew up in the San Pedro area and attended San Pedro HS and Mary Star of the Sea, earning a basketball scholarship to Long Beach State.  His first coaching job was at the now-closed Lausuen HS in San Pedro, leading that team to a CIF-SS 3-A (small schools) title in 1970.  From there he moved to San Dimas where he coached for 19 years before moving to Bonita where he coached until 1994.  Last year he was inducted into the CIF-SS's "Hall of Fame" for his lifetime of dedication to helping student athletes. Many people will also remember that Espinoza was the force behind the annual December "Tournament of Champions" which is now held at Ocean View.  Espinoza started the tournament in 1972, and it was held each year at Cal Poly Pomona until 1988 when it moved to Ocean View HS, where it is still held each year.  Espinoza is survived by his wife; two daughters, Sherri Berrera and Donna Flores; three granddaughters; and a great-granddaughter.

New Hire At Boys' Republic:  This past week, Boys Republic promoted Jeff Richardson to the head basketball coaching job to replace Bob Espinoza.  Richardson, who is also the Rams' head baseball coach and an assistant with the cross-country team, has been an assistant with the basketball squad the last four seasons.  Keeping up with the South Bay connection out at Boys' Republic, Richardson, 29, is a graduate of St. Bernard in Playa del Rey.

Central Valley Hiring:   Lupe Sanchez, a 1990 McFarland HS (Central Section), graduate, has been named the boys basketball coach at Arvin HS. Sanchez, 30, replaces Hernan Santiago, who resigned to reportedly focus on his master's degree.  The McFarland job is Sanchez' his first head coaching job at the varsity level. He was the frosh-soph head coach at Wasco from 1997-99.  He will also be a math teacher.

Nessman Is Back:  More Central Valley fun....Remember former Porterville coach George Nessman, who led Porterville JC to a state men's basketball championship three seasons ago?  Well, after leaving Porterville he's now back as the new head coach of Bakersfield City College men's team.  Nessman replaces Jeff Hughes, who was 76-51 in four seasons as a walk-on coach for the Renegades.   Nessman will teach full-time at the school in the P.E. department .  Nessman, 43, compiled a 183-72 record in eight years as head coach at Porterville College. He was also 147-22 over his final five years at the school and had a 39-game unbeaten streak from January 2000 to February 2001.  He led the Pirates to a 33-4 record and a state championship during the 1999-2000 season and won Central Valley Conference championships in the 1997-98, 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons. Porterville went 29-1 in Nessman's last season, 2000-01, but the school was banned from postseason play and stripped of what would have been another conference title because of a housing arrangement with its players that violated CVC rules.  Nessman took last season off from coaching. Porterville went 6-24 during 2001-02 under first-year coach Scott Eitelgeorge, after none of Nessman's players with remaining eligibility returned to the program.  Before coming to Porterville, Nessman put together a 155-48 record in seven seasons as head coach at De La Salle High in Concord. He won five conference titles, a section title and advanced to the Northern California tournament four times, and also coached NBA players John and Brent Barry when they were at De La Salle.  During his time at Porterville, he said, 41 of his players transferred to four-year schools and more than 20 went on to Division I schools.

Clovis West....Out with the Old:   This one is old news, but it bears repeating given the item which follows.... Vance Wallberg who began coaching at Clovis West in 1989, has taken over at Fresno City College for Steve Cleveland, who left Fresno CC a year ago to take the Brigham Young head coaching job.

Clovis West... In with the New:   Clovis West last week hired a new head coach to replace Wallberg.  Tom Orlich, who was the head coach at South Tahoe High for 25 years, was named as Clovis West High's boys basketball coach this past Thursday.  Orlich, 51, has not coached the past two years, but he was Nevada's winningest active coach during the time he was coaching.

More Central Valley:   Fresno Bullard HS hired a new coach also, getting Jesse Miramontez to coach its boys basketball team. A 1980 Fresno Central HS grad, Miramontez, 41, spent the past three seasons coaching at Westminster HS in the CIF-Southern Section. The 17-year coaching veteran last coached in Fresno during the 1996-97 season at San Joaquin Memorial HS.  Miramontez replaces last season's North Yosemite League coach of the year Dan Kilbert, who is now an assistant at Fresno Pacific. The Knights posted a 15-13 record last season.

Back to SoCal CIF-SS:   Travis Showalter, formerly head coach at Luezinger was hired earlier this summer to become the head boys' basketball coach at Moreno Valley Rancho Verde HS.   This past week, Troy Winslow, a former quarterback at USC in the 1960s, was selected to replace Showalter as the AD at Leuzinger HS in Lawndale.  No word yet on who will replace Showalter as boys' basketball coach though.

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