Stability is important in a high school athletic program. For example, Tom Salter coached the Culver City High football team for 10 years, then retired and handed the job to his top assistant, Jahmal Wright.
Last season Culver City won the Ocean League for the fourth straight year.
By contrast, Santa Monica High has had three head coaches in the last five seasons. Mike Burnett resigned after the 2005 season to coach in Virginia. Zach Cuda coached from 2006 to 2008. Travis Clatk took over in 2009.
Predictably, Samohi hasn’t kept up with Culver City and last season also finished behind second place Inglewood.
Samohi had the dominant program when Norm Lacy was the coach, including winning the 2001 CIF championship. Lacy then resigned and has become the athletic director. In that role he hired Clark, a former Samohi player who was an assistant on Lacy’s staffs at both St. Monica and Santa Monica.
From all indications Clark cares deeply about reviving the program and expects to learn from the experiences of his first season.
But getting back to the top isn’t going to be easy.
Samohi’s best players were seniors and the talent and leadership of all-purpose star Luke Zelon and quarterback Garrett Safron will be especially hard to replace.
The problems of 2009 began in the first game when Cody Williams suffered a cervical spine injury in a loss to Leuzinger. An inexperienced offensive line, key injuries and an inconsistent running game reduced Samohi to a third place team that lost in the first round of the CIF playoffs.
Burnett explained his reasons for leaving early in 2006..
“Three years earlier my wife and I didn’t have any children,” he said. “Now we have two small boys and the price of homes is so high. an opportunity came up to coach at a high school in Virginia.
“I’m making a necessary move but I’m experiencing some frustration too because of what I’m leaving behind.”
Samohi football remains a major topic of interest. Response to the Mirror’s coverage is greater than for any other sport. But it isn’t quite as much as in Lacy’s glory years.
Also, Samohi doesn’t even have the best team on the Westside anymore. It has lost its annual non-league game to Venice seven times in the last eight years.