After Jesse Teplitzky was chosen as the new men’s basketball coach at Santa Monica College last week he made an observation.
“I believe I was selected because of the energy I can bring to the position,” he said. “I’m 29, single, with a strong work ethic and deeply appreciative of having my first head coaching job after serving nine years as an assistant.
“I know this is a very good job – a school with a great basketball tradition in an ideal location.”
Tiplitzky is right about the tradition. Hall of Fame coach John McMullen won more than 500 games at SMC before retiring from the position. But that was three years ago and his successor, Trevor Shickman, didn’t win enough to keep the job. As a result, Tiplitzky takes over after the Corsairs had seasons of 14-14 and 12-15.
Then there’s the matter of McMullen being a full-time employee. Budget cuts resulted in Shickman being part-time and Tiplitzky being part-time too, a fact Athletic Director Dr. Rhonda Hyatt admits makes the job more difficult.
But Tiplitzky, known in basketball circles as Coach T, was unanimously chosen over four other finalists by a five-person selection committee that included McMullen and SMC women’s basketball coach Lydia Strong.
“He has worked with some highly respected coaches,” said McMullen.
“He has an impressive background and a clear vision of what he wants to accomplish here,” said Strong.
Hyatt used the words “personality and style” in describing why Tiplitzky will fit well at SMC.
If the position was full-time, SMC likely could have attracted an established head coach. But since the position has become part-time the task appeared to be this: find an eager assistant grateful for the opportunity and determined to make the most of his chance.
Shickman, who had been an assistant to McMullen, seemed to fit that description. But his teams were not able to qualify for the state playoffs and couldn’t reach the level of Western State Conference powers Bakersfield and Citrus.
In addition, the program was matched or surpassed by West Los Angeles College, a local rival.
Shickman remains an instructor at SMC and Tiplitzky will also teach physical education classes when he officially begins April 16.
But with recruiting season well underway the new coach can’t wait two more weeks before beginning. As a result he has started to contact recruits.
His first ones may be players already in the program. Point guard Noah Gottlieb, who made all-conference first team and forward Arthur Braswell, who was all-conference honorable mention, were both freshman possessing another year of community college eligibility. However, Gottlieb has a desire to play for a four-year school next season and has attracted some attention.
Shakir Johnson, a 6-foot-9 center who played at SMC in 2005 but was ineligible last season, is another possibility. He attended SMC during the past season, but his status for next season has yet to be determined.
Tiplitzky intends to monitor the progress of his players’ academics in hopes of staving off a similar scenario – when a star player with eligibility left is ruled ineligible.
Tiplitzky saw the SMC job advertised on the NCAA website.
He’s aware there is no letter of intent on the community college level, as there is in Division 1. And a coach can’t be certain he’ll have a player until the first day of school at the end of August. But he intends to announce verbal commitments – a new policy at SMC.
A player isn’t bound by such an agreement but the public is made aware that he said he would play at a certain school.
Tiplitzky’s coaching career began at Metro State College in Denver and has been spent primarily in Northern California, most recently at Chabot College in Hayward. He favors pressure defense and gives his players concepts of what to do on offense rather than calling a lot of set plays.
“I don’t favor run ’n gun,” he said. One of his first tasks will be to finalize the team’s schedule for next season. When play begins there will be considerable curiosity about how far back he can bring the Corsairs.