Now coaching Santa Monica High boys basketball for the 16th year, James Hecht considers himself a fortunate man.
“I was raised in Santa Monica and now I’m coaching at a school that has quality academics and outstanding young men who want to learn and play basketball,” he says.
His teams, like him, are a model of consistency. They usually win around 20 games, contend strongly for a league championship, and qualify for the CIF playoffs.
In 2006 the Vikings reached the semi-finals of the CIF playoffs. Last season the Vikings again reached the semi-finals before losing and were selected to play in the state tournament.
This season’s team started slowly but most recently won three of four games in the Oaks Christian Tournament, improving its record to 7-5 despite the absence of any player over 6-foot-2.
Cory Walker is a starter for the fourth consecutive year, and all but three members of the team are seniors.
Will this leave Hecht without a lot of talent next season? Probably not.
“There’s a lot of talent in the program,” he said. “Our lower level teams are doing real well.”
Each year about 160 players sign up for Samohi boys’ basketball. Hecht and his staff then evaluate the group and select rosters for the various levels.
It’s unusual for hopeful youngsters to contribute to the varsity early in their Samohi careers although Walker and James Montgomery of the current squad have done that.
In the master plan for construction of a new Samohi campus a new gymnasium is included. But it’s not likely to be built for many years.
In the meantime Hecht will carry on and continue teaching a sport which has been good to him and his players.