A coaching change in sports at any level is seldom made without some problems. It’s a simple fact that athletes grow accustomed to a particular coach’s methods and require an adjustment period when someone new becomes the person in charge.
It’s especially difficult at the community college level where players stay only two years. Then a new group comes in and must adjust from their high school system to a new one with few if any teammates able to provide a frame of reference.
This season at Santa Monica College there’s also the matter of the men’s basketball coach being new. Every player but one, guard Ryan Avilez, departed from last year’s team, most moving on to four-year schools. And Jerome Jenkins became head coach after Jesse Teplitzky took the head coach job Cerritos College.
It was an adjustment for a journalist, too. When I saw SMC play Oxnard this month, I had to learn who the players were and meet the new coach for the first time. In addition, athletic director Rhonda Hyatt had left for a teaching position at College Of The Canyons. Even the public address announcer, Robin Kirk, was no longer part of the operation. She’s now broadcasting on El Segundo cable TV.
I talked to some of the players and got different versions of the first seven games, which resulted in two wins and five losses.
One said team chemistry needed to improve, and hopefully it would. But forward Ross McMain was optimistic. “We’re getting better and we have enough talent,” he said.
I was impressed with the Corsairs’ ability to produce an 89-78 victory over a taller opponent, maximizing their speed, quickness and depth. I was also impressed with Jenkins’ ability to make it work with players he inherited rather than recruited.
Because of the lengthy search process, Jenkins was hired too late to get into the recruiting game and so was left a new batch of players Teplitzky brought in before he moved on.
Recognizing that the timing of his departure was not ideal, but necessary under the conditions, Teplitzky told me last summer that new players were in the picture, some already enrolled in SMC summer school. And he was confident the talent level would equal or exceed last year’s 17-victory squad.
The outcome is yet to be determined, and we won’t get a clearer picture until Western State Conference games begin in January.
But some key ingredients are already in place. Forward Arnette Hollis will likely be one of the team’s high scorers. The forward from Mayfair High has considerable talent.
And point guard Eric Bell from El Camino Real High seems capable of running the offense. He did that against Oxnard, and also scored 15 points.
It isn’t unusual at the community college level for a coach to have numerous players of similar ability, and that seems to be the case here. So it will be important for Jenkins to determine roles, as can be seen by the fact that some of his most effective players against Oxnard weren’t starters.
Although both the team and coach were new, and the caliber of the team unknown, a large crowd turned out nonetheless. And SMC made a wise move by allowing fans to occupy the stands behind the benches in contrast to last season when fans were seated on the opposite side. This decision increases the home team’s advantage.