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He’s always been known as Doc, but Pinewood of Los Altos Hills head coach Ernest “Doc” Scheppler isn’t really a doctor. Although since he took the Panthers’ helm almost two decades ago, the pseudo doctor has orchestrated some surgical performances by his talented teams.
Scheppler got the Doc moniker early on as a youth because his late father, Ernest Scheppler Sr., was an ophthalmologist, and the nickname has stuck.
Now, after his girls got him his 500th win and record-tying sixth state championship this season, Scheppler has been named the 2014 Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year.
With the honor, something rare for small school coaches, and the first for a Division V coach during a Division V season, Scheppler excised any doubts about his being among the best coaches in the history of California girls basketball.
Two other small school coaches have been named State Coach of the Year, but neither got the award when they were coaching in Division V.
Four-time state championship head coach Mike Ciardella of Atherton Sacred Heart Prep won the award in 1994, but his team was competing in Division I.Three-time state championship La Jolla Country Day head coach Terri Bamford won two Division V titles, and her team was the D5 runner-up this season to Pinewood, but she won the award when her team captured the 2012 Division IV state championship.
Not only is Scheppler an outstanding coach and a class act, he’s quite the character and comedian, and shows it every year at the press conferences after his team has won or lost a state title.
When informed that the state’s top coaching honor (which goes back to 1972) hasn’t gone to a small school coach very often, he replied in his patented Howard Cosell-like voice, and dragged it out for humorous emphasis, just like he did in Sacramento last month when answering questions at the press conference.
“It’s a R-A-R-I-T-Y. Such an HO-NOR.”
When it finally hit Scheppler that he was State Coach of the Year, he had a more normal response.
“Wow. Really, that’s quite an honor. Thank you very much,” said the 2010 Division V Coach of the Year, an honor he gets again this year since he is the overall selection.
The 60-year-old Scheppler, who finished the season with a 504-111 record in 19 seasons coaching the Pinewood girls, actually started out coaching boys. It started in 1988 at San Bruno Capuchino before he left after three years for his alma mater Burlingame where he guided that team for four years.
When his daughter, Kacey Scheppler (395 career 3-pointers which was the state record at that time), transferred to Pinewood in 1995, he took his trade to the girls side where he has remained while also teaching physical education at Pinewood.
In some respects, Doc still coaches the boys, or men, and is a shooting coach to one in particular, current Houston Rockets guard and member of the 2006 Palo Alto CIF Division II state champions, Jeremy Lin.
In fact, when informed Tuesday morning of his honor, Scheppler was in Houston where he saw the Rockets beat the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night, and then had dinner with Lin afterward.
“We had a really nice dinner after the game but now I’ve got to shoot with my boy this morning before he flies off to New Orleans.”
Scheppler, a basketball and baseball player at Burlingame and a member of the school’s athletic hall of fame, was one of the first coaches to bombard opponents with three-pointers and combine that with a pressing, smothering defense.
All his teams have been talented, and all have had their weaknesses, and this year’s team was no exception.
Like his previous five state championship teams and even the two that made it to the title game and lost, this team that went 30-3 could shoot the lights out.
“This was probably my best shooting team and they can only get better,” Doc remarked.
For the season, as a team, the Panthers shot 32 percent outside the arc and made 293 three-point shots. Overall, they shot 48 percent from the field.
“It was a young team and I’m returning most of the players. If they can develop more maturity, improve their mental toughness and mind-set, and sustain more focus, they could be the best of all my teams. They already rank right up there but I still want more from them.”
Although he dissected the game and found some faults, it’s hard to downplay the dominance his girls showed in a 61-38 Northern Regional D5 title victory over a Stockton Brookside Christian team that pundits and prognosticators gave them little chance of winning.
The following week’s 60-42 state title game victory over La Jolla Country Day was also impressive, but Country Day was shorthanded and even at full strength lacked the firepower or size and speed of Brookside Christian.
“I’m really proud of the way the girls played their best in the biggest game, and against girls 6-feet-2 with speed. At that point, it’s about skill and style, and precision, preparation and preparedness.”
So is Scheppler considering hanging it up soon after all he’s achieved?
“What did LeBron James say about winning titles? Seven, eight, nine, 10, it never gets old. The goal is always to be the best,” was his answer in that Cosell-like voice to the Cal-Hi Sports question asked at the state championship press conference.
Maybe so, but this is the year and the team that allowed him to achieve the highest honor a California girls coach can achieve.
Scheppler, who is married and also has a son and two grandchildren, is the fourth coach from the CIF Central Coast Section and the eighth coach from the San Francisco Bay Area to be named State Coach of the Year. Ciardella, Sue Phillips (1999 at San Jose Archbishop Mitty) and Brian Harrigan (2006 at San Francisco Sacred Heart Cathedral) are the CCS honorees. Spike Hensley (1980 at Berkeley), Gene Nakamura (1991 at Berkeley), Ron Hirschman (2009 at Danville Monte Vista) and Malik McCord (2013 at Oakland Bishop O’Dowd) are the other Bay Area CIF North Coast Section winners.
“I look at this as one of my best coaching jobs. The road to success was a little more windy than other years. It took more time to get the girls where we wanted them to be.”
GIRLS STATE COACHES OF THE YEAR ALL-TIME LIST
(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)
2014 – Doc Scheppler, Los Altos Hills Pinewood (30-3)
2013 – Malik McCord, Oakland Bishop O’Dowd (30-3)
2012 – Terri Bamford, La Jolla Country Day (32-1)
2011 – Steve Smith, Los Angeles Windward (29-4)
2010 – Melissa Hearlihy, North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake (34-1)
2009 – Ron Hirschman, Danville Monte Vista (29-3)
2008 – Lorene Morgan, Long Beach Millikan (28-5)
2007 – Carl Buggs, Long Beach Poly (36-1)
2006 – Brian Harrigan, San Francisco Sacred Heart Cathedral (30-2)
2005 – Richard Wiard, La Puente Bishop Amat (35-0)
2004 – Tom Gonsalves, Stockton St. Mary’s (32-4)
2003 – Kevin Kiernan, Fullerton Troy (31-2)
2002 – Lisa Cooper, Torrance Bishop Montgomery (28-5)
2001 – Dwayne Tubbs, Hanford (31-2)
2000 – James Anderson, Harbor City Narbonne (34-0)
1999 – Sue Phillips, San Jose Mitty (31-0)
1998 – Jeff Sink, Brea Brea-Olinda (33-1)
1997 – Yvette Angel, Torrance Bishop Montgomery (29-3)
1996 – Mary Hauser, Santa Ana Mater Dei (29-3)
1995 – Scott Brown, Moraga Campolindo (32-3)
1994 – Mike Ciardella, Atherton Sacred Heart Prep (38-0)
1993 – Ellis Barfield, Lynwood (31-0)
1992 – Wendell Yoshida, RH Estates Peninsula (33-0)
1991 – Gene Nakamura, Berkeley (30-2)
1990 – Frank Scott, Inglewood Morningside (32-3)
1989 – Mark Trakh, Brea Brea-Olinda (31-2)
1988 – Richard Hull, Willows (26-4)
1987 – Lee Trepanier, San Diego Pt. Loma (34-0)
1986 – Van Girard, Lynwood (28-4)
1985 – Tom Campbell, Chico Pleasant Valley (28-0)
1984 – Joe Vaughan, Ventura Buena (31-0)
1983 – Larry Newman, Anderson (26-1)
1982 – Tom Pryor, Cerritos Gahr (29-5)
1981 – Art Webb, L.A. Locke (19-2)
1980 – Spike Hensley, Berkeley (29-0)
1979 – Harvey Green, Woodland Hills El Camino Real (19-0)
1978 – Joanne Kellogg, Huntington Beach (25-2)
1977 – Tami Yasuda, Fair Oaks Bella Vista (30-1)
1976 – Chuck Shively, Ventura (23-0)
1975 – Janet Balsley, San Diego Pt. Loma (34-0)
1974 – No selection
1973 – Mary Brown, Fresno San Joaquin Memorial (12-0)
1972 – Judy Hartz, Ventura Buena (8-0)
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend