In his first 17 games as a head basketball coach at the community college level, Jesse Teplitzky established himself in two ways.
By guiding the Santa Monica College men to a 12-5 record, he has proven that a man with no previous head coaching experience can succeed if he draws upon his nine years as an assistant coach at various levels and works hard.
In addition, he has made it obvious he’s far from satisfied and has larger goals in sight.
SMC defeated Saddleback, 78-58, on December 27 in the College of the Desert Tournament, won the next day, and then defeated Chaffey College in the championship game as Noah Gottlieb scored 26 points and was named tournament MVP.
The Corsairs had a home non-conference game January 2 against Pierce College and will host El Camino January 5 before beginning Western State Conference Southern Division competition.
SMC seems likely to end a stretch of seasons when the team had a losing record. And Teplitzky’s early success seems to justify the administration’s decision to bring in a new coach this season.
But Teplitzky has seen that having a dominant team at this level is possible and he uses Irvine Valley College as an example.
Irvine Valley has defeated SMC twice this season. Teplitzky has great respect for the coach there, a coach who told him that SMC now resembles the teams Irvine Valley has had in recent seasons – pretty good, but lacking a superstar or two that could put it on another level.
This season Irvine Valley has three players regarded as strong Division 1 prospects, including a guard who has committed to Boise State.
Teplitzky’s most heralded player, Gottlieb, most likely has a Division 1 future too. Some others, primarily Arthur Braswell and Keivan Cross, are expected to play somewhere in upcoming seasons, but whether it will be on the Division 1 level remains to be seen.
Teplitzky’s most striking accomplishment has been to bring in several point guards besides Gottlieb to give the Corsairs unusual flexibility and depth at that position.
He recruited Chris Blackwood and has made good use of Avery Martin, who was cut from the squad last season, and freshman Calvin Mitchell. Another freshman, Ryan Alvirez, has had some playing time too.
Teplitzky has employed Gottlieb as the shooting guard and rotated the others at point guard, noting that Blackwood is steady, Martin’s speed provides a different dimension, and Mitchell is especially good in the set offense.
It was an eye-opening plan considering that Gottlieb was an all-conference point guard last season. So coming in new, it would have been logical for Teplitzky to leave that position alone and concentrate on other needs.
Why didn’t he do that?
“I believe that at this level of basketball, teams have a lot of good athletes and many use pressing defenses,” he said. “So it made sense to me to put two ball-handlers on the court, giving us the advantage of being able to bring the ball up on either side.
“Noah is a good shooter and he’s had some additional opportunities playing as the off-guard.’’
Now SMC’s goal is to maintain the early success, which is the most for the program since Hall of Fame coach John McMullen retired four seasons ago. And then take success to a higher level with strong recruiting in the next few years.