Looking back at his 17th season coaching high school basketball – three at St. Monica and the last 14 at Santa Monica – James Hecht is extremely positive.
And looking ahead to the next few years he’s equally positive.
Following a 44-41 second round CIF playoff loss to Chino Hills on Tuesday, February 19, Hecht told the team how much he appreciated their company this season.
“When a season begins and you’re going to spend the next few months together, you hope the players will work hard and the chemistry will be right,” he said. “I enjoyed this group as much as any.”
Samohi won the Ocean League championship, won one playoff game, and compiled a 20-8 record. It was the third straight 20-victory season for the Vikings.
In addition, the junior varsity and freshmen teams won league championships, and the sophomore team finished second. When I observed these teams, I saw tall and talented youngsters who’ll be moving up to the varsity.
“We’re pleased with the talent and the character of the players in our program,” said Hecht. “Character counts a lot.”
While Hecht has presided over the program, he gives much credit to other coaches on the four Viking teams.
Brian Part, Rafael Hernandez, Les Fukutama, and Peter Brey were varsity assistants this season. Former Viking athletic director Doug Kim, who once turned out quality girls basketball teams at Culver City High, gave the junior varsity experienced leadership and was assisted by Mike Green. Keith Hall guided the sophomore team aided by Chris Vance. Dom Morra was head coach of the freshman team and was assisted by Steve Wizan.
Senior Ed Willis was Samohi’s high scorer with 14 points in the Vikings’ final game. Willis tied the contest with 20 seconds left as Samohi came back from a 26-16 halftime deficit, but Chino Hills scored with three seconds left.
Chino Hills also won its next game and has reached the 4-AA semi-finals.
Three seasons ago Samohi advanced to the semi-finals. Last season it lost a first-round game to Woodbridge of Anaheim, which featured 6-foot-10 Austin Daye, now a starting forward at Gonzaga. With a first- round win this season, the program stands as a model of consistency.
Next on the agenda is a sixth-period conditioning class for players not involved in other sports. Freshman tryouts will be held in June, and the coaches will then begin the process of forming rosters for the four Viking teams comprised of about 60 players from more than 100 (in some years more than 200) who try out.