From all indications, Santa Monica College has made a wise choice in hiring Jerome Jenkins as its new men’s basketball coach.
Jenkins has superb credentials – Division 1 head coaching experience, community college head coaching experience, and a desire to return from Sacramento to his Los Angeles roots. He admits to campaigning hard for the job.
However, three important questions must be answered if the Corsairs are to do well in the upcoming season.
Will Jenkins, a newcomer to both SMC and the competitive Western State Conference, be able to overcome his unfamiliarity with the talent level in the league? Will he be able to overcome the absence of summer activity in the program, a time when the coach annually sizes up the magnitude of the task? And, finally, will the loss of at least two players who defected as the lengthy hiring process dragged on deplete SMC’s depth?
One player bowed out shortly after Coach Jesse Teplitzky took the head coach job at Cerritos College. Another played for SMC throughout its summer competition, but when a coach still hadn’t been hired as the semester began, he went elsewhere too.
Teplitzky arrived a year ago in a similar situation. He had been elsewhere and had to learn what he was getting into after replacing Trevor Shickman.
Teplitzky was highly organized, very professional, and hard working. He brought fresh ideas and the team got off to a fast start.
But when conference play began, the Corsairs began losing and there was reason to wonder if he had underestimated the talent level in the league.
Teplitzky’s most controversial decision was to move all-conference point guard Noah Gottlieb to the off-guard position.
His reasoning was sound – have someone bring the ball up-court and give it up quickly, freeing up Gottlieb and others to score.
But the plan failed when the new point guards struggled against superb opposing athletes, and when it became obvious that Gottlieb was playing out of position.
Gottlieb completed his two years at SMC as the fifth highest scorer in school history. But he told recruiters he wanted to be a point guard, and his wish was granted by Chaminade University in Honolulu.
SMC recovered in the second half of the conference schedule to earn a playoff berth but lost in the first round. The Corsairs won 17 games, the most in four years, but they also lost 14 and likely would have done better without the difficulties associated with a coaching change.
Teplitzky has a bright coaching future, and Jenkins could be the right man for SMC now. But Jenkins’ first season could be his toughest one.
As the years go on we will see about Jenkins’ ability to bring in talent and use his many contacts in the coaching profession to advantage.
But he’s behind right now. He’ll direct players who were brought in by another coaching staff – players who may or may not be suited for the up-tempo style he wants.
John McMullen became a Community College Hall Of Fame coach by staying at SMC for 24 years and winning more than 500 games. Continuity was a staple of the program. He was going to be there, his methods were successful, and players knew they had to do things his way.
Jenkins may be a very good coach, but initially he doesn’t have that advantage. Or anything close to it.