Jesse Teplitzky was successful in his first season as a head basketball coach. At 29, following nine years as an assistant at different schools, he arrived at Santa Monica College and guided the Corsairs to their first winning season in four years.
His work was noticed.
Cerritos College made an offer that Teplitzky felt he couldn’t refuse and he has resigned his position at SMC, expressing mixed feelings because his departure leaves the SMC program in a state of uncertainty.
Because the job must be posted and interviews will take awhile, SMC isn’t likely to hire a replacement until mid-August. That puts players in a difficult situation, and with no letters of intent existing on the community college level, players will be recruited by rivals, with some almost certain to leave.
The problem for SMC is that most coaches are part-time with no medical coverage. At Cerritos, most coaches are full-time with medical coverage.
According to sources, Teplitzky will triple his salary in the 2008-‘09 season, receive medical coverage and become a full-time staff member.
“I’ll teach some physical education classes and my workload will be approximately the same as it was at SMC,” said Teplitzky. “I like Santa Monica and didn’t apply elsewhere, but Cerritos contacted me. I was interviewed and offered the position. The Cerritos coach is retiring from coaching after many years and was on the interview committee. He was very complimentary to me.
“The irony is that we lost to Cerritos in the playoffs, the game that ended our season. I’m sure that’s where they learned about me and appreciated the way our team played. And so, this opportunity probably wouldn’t have come along if we hadn’t won three of our last five regular season games to qualify for the playoffs.
“I know this leaves our players in a difficult situation. I’ve met individually with them and recommended that they stay at SMC. They’re attending a fine school, some are taking summer school courses and there will be a new coach who’ll hopefully build on what we accomplished last season.
“But the uncertainty of who the coach will be for six weeks is a problem. These young men will have to make decisions.”
Joe Cascio, one of Teplitzky assistants last season, is the coach who’ll try to hold the program together in the interim.
Neither Cascio nor Aaron Landon, SMC’s other assistant, are expected to go with Teplitzky to Cerritos. Both have ties to the Westside that would make a move unlikely.
Although six sophomores and two freshmen from SMC’s 2007-’08 team received scholarships from four-year schools, Teplitzky was upbeat about the Corsairs’ chances for next season. He expected the talent level to be at least as good.
But he didn’t ask the group to move with him. “I want to do things right,” he said.
Cerritos won’t play SMC next season although it has scheduled some non-conference games with other Western State Conference teams.
Cerritos’ league includes LA Southwest, Harbor and Long Beach. That league has two divisions and the other one includes perennial powers LA City College and Trade Tech.
Evaluating his year at SMC, Teplitzky said:
“I made some mistakes but not from lack of effort and I learned a lot.
“We had a bump in the road at the start of conference play and lost some close games. But we finished strong.”
Teplitzky will honor a commitment to teach summer classes at SMC and may not move to the Cerritos area for a few months. But he’s realistic about the possibility that some of his Corsair recruits will go elsewhere.
“They’re free to go,” he admitted. “And they’re caught in the middle of an awkward situation.”