Boys BB: Windward has new coach

Former state title-winning girls basketball, men’s college and women’s pro coach Steve Smith will take over boys’ program next season at Windward (Los Angeles). It was announced earlier this season two-time state title-winning boys coach Miguel Villegas would not return. Villegas will coach remainder of season with Smith as his assistant.

After the 2012 season and a year after being named the Cal-Hi Sports girls state coach of the Year, Windward girls basketball coach Steve Smith stepped down and concentrated on his athletic director duties at the small private school on Los Angeles’ Westside.

Today it was announced in a school press release, Smith will return to coaching next season — but it will be to lead the Wildcats’ boys program. Current coach Miguel Villegas will lead the team the remainder of the season as it was announced on January 17.

In 2011, the same season when Smith was named girls State Coach of the Year, Villegas was named the Division IV State Coach of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports.

“Although I’ve never been a head coach at the boys level in high school, I did assist my brother, John Smith, at Valley View of Moreno Valley,” Smith said.

Smith was the head coach at Dominican University in San Rafael between 1990 and 1997. He also coached with the Phoenix Mercury, Los Angeles Sparks and Detroit Shock of the WNBA between 1997 and 2001.

“With respect to coaching boys or girls, to me, nothing is different about it, it’s about the sport of basketball,” Smith said. “When I left Dominican College coaching men to coach in the WNBA, people asked me the same thing. It’s not about the gender.”

This season Smith is one of Villegas’ assistants.

In his eleventh season as the head boys basketball coach at Windward of Los Angeles, Villegas is currently 18-6 and 7-1 in the tough Alpha League. A bubble club in the state top 20 rankings, it feels like this club is struggling a bit but that’s only because of the expectations Villegas created over the past decade.

The club’s start this season was Windward’s best since the 2009 season and a far cry from the expectation level when Villages coached his first club to a 18-10 record in 2003-04.

Villegas told his team at practice Thursday, January 16 that this season will be his last at Windward.

Villegas, a 1993 graduate of South Gate High School, led the Wildcats to state titles in 2009 and 2011. The first crown in Division V was somewhat expected. Two year’s later Windward upset nationally-ranked and NorCal No. 1 Salesian of Richmond, 63-57, to win the CIF Division IV state crown. It was the biggest win in school history and rubber stamped Windward’s arrival as a small school state power.

The 2009 team was led by Darrius Morris, who was drafted in 2011 by the Los Angeles Lakers, the first Windward player ever drafted by a NBA franchise. Some of the other top players Villegas has coached include Harvard’s Wesley Saunders, the top player on the 2011 team, Anthony Stover (UCLA), his younger brother Nick Stover (LMU), Jordan Wilson (Northern Colorado), and Cedric Latimer (Santa Clara/St. Francis).

Smith brought in Villegas to run the boys program at Windward and was also his coach at Dominican. Before that, Villegas helped Fresno City College reach the 1995 California Junior College Elite 8 and led South Gate to the 1992 L.A. City Section 3A title game.

Entering Windward’s next Alpha League game against Campbell Hall of North Hollywood, Villegas has a 234-90 career coaching mark. Should Windward win that game, it will have a shot at sharing the Alpha League crown when it faces state and nationally ranked Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth to close out the regular season on February 13.

The cupboard won’t be bare at all for Smith. Three talented juniors forwards (Roy Hemsley, Roman Davis, Mason Shepard) and Jalen Harris, a starting freshman point guard, are on this year’s CIF Southern Section and Division IV state title contender team.

Harold Abend contributed to this report.


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