State Coach of the Year: Russell White

Encino Crespi head coach Russell White jokes around with players Brandon Williams (2) and Taj Regans (11) during team's CIF Division I state title season. Photo: James Escarcega.

Encino Crespi head coach Russell White jokes around with players Brandon Williams (2) and Taj Regans (11) during team’s CIF Division I state title season. Photo: James Escarcega.

Back for the 1986 football season, Encino Crespi’s Russell White was the Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Football State Player of the Year. Almost 30 years later, a different Russell White of Crespi is the State Coach of the Year in boys basketball. He’s also the school’s athletic director and is the first-ever State Coach of the Year from the San Fernando Valley after this year’s team won its second straight CIF state title.

For our post on each of the divisional girls basketball State Coaches of the Year, CLICK HERE.

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There was only one boys team at this year’s CIF State Basketball Championships in Sacramento that was able to win a state title for the second straight year so it made sense that when looking for candidates to be the Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year that Encino Crespi’s Russell White would be near the top of the list.

While White was the Division IV State Coach of the Year just last season after Crespi won the CIF D4 state title, he hasn’t been the overall State Coach of the Year before. If he had, others who have never been added to the all-time state list would have been considered higher.

With Crespi going 33-4 and winning the CIF Division I state title this season, it all added up for White to indeed be selected as this year’s State Coach of the Year. He’s the first State Coach of the Year in boys basketball from a San Fernando Valley school.

White shows focus inside the tunnel at Cal's Haas Pavilion prior to team playing in CIF Division IV state final. Photo: James Escarcega.

White shows focus inside the tunnel at Cal’s Haas Pavilion prior to team playing in CIF Division IV state final. Photo: James Escarcega.

The Celts were expected to be one of the state’s top 10 teams at the start of the season and they finished No. 7 in the final overall rankings. But they also had to come back after losing in their very first game to Peninsula of Rolling Hills Estates at the Pacific Shores Invitational. Plus, senior starter Mitchell Mykhaylov suffered a lower leg injury that at first was though could be serious.

Mykhaylov ended up missing just five games, but Crespi also had to come out of the Mission League (where it lost twice) and had to come back from losing in the first-round of the CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs to Damien of La Verne. After that loss, White’s team played well with its back to the wall, won the consolation bracket of that Open Division, then beat Redondo (Redondo Beach) for the CIF Division I Southern California crown.

In the state championship in Sacramento, Crespi faced a team from Berkeley that had pulled off a pair of upsets to win the NorCal D1 crown. It was close midway through the third quarter, but USC-bound De’Anthony Melton led a 9-1 run that sparked the Celts to a 68-53 victory.

“Could I have imagined us playing for a state title after that day against Peninsula? No, it’s too long of a journey,” White said right after the game. “We were just trying to get better each day and each game.”

In last year’s CIF Division IV state title, played at Cal, Melton made key defensive plays down the stretch when the Celts defeated Capital Christian of Sacramento 47-44. Along the way to that title, White had to help get the team past Maranatha of Sierra Madre, which was led at the time by current University of Oregon star Tyler Dorsey.

After that win, Coach White also got to visit with Russell White, the former Crespi football star with the same name who at the time was commissioner of the CIF Oakland Section. That Russell White, the 1986 Mr. Football State Player of the Year, also is one of the best running backs to ever play at Cal.

Melton, who has already been named the L.A. Daily News Player of the Year and was a finalist for the Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year honor, will be missed next season. But White will welcome back sophomore guards Brandon Williams and Taj Regans, who should ensure that another top team will be fielded.

Before White took over at Crespi for the 2006-07 season, the Celts had suffered through 8-17 and 4-20 seasons. They haven’t had a losing season since.

A 1994 grad from Cal Lutheran, White spent the first seven years of his head coaching career at Calabasas. He helped the Coyotes to two Marmonte League titles in that span and had a 118-76 record.

At Crespi, White has been the head coach for 10 years and in all 10 seasons the Celts have been in the playoffs. Including this year, the school also has three CIF Southern Section titles to go with the two CIF state titles plus seven semifinal appearances in the CIFSS playoffs.

Before Melton, the best player White has had at Crespi has been guard London Perrantes, a Class of 2013 grad who starred this past season at the University of Virginia.

What’s perhaps most impressive about White’s basketball coaching accomplishments at Crespi is that he is also the school’s athletic director. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for anyone to juggle athletic director and head coach roles at a school like Crespi, but White has managed and has helped keep all teams at the school competitive.

Congratulations to Coach White and his staff of assistants and to his players.

Chuck Rapp was our State Coach of the Year for last season and won a CIF state title this season. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Chuck Rapp was our State Coach of the Year for last season and won a CIF state title this season. Photo: Willie Eashman.


(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)

2016 – Russell White, Encino Crespi (33-4)
2015 – Chuck Rapp, San Mateo Serra (23-6)
2014 – Doug Mitchell, Torrance Bishop Montgomery (28-6)
2013 – Mike Haupt, San Diego St. Augustine (29-4)
2012 – Bill Mellis, Richmond Salesian (33-2)
2011 – Eric Cooper, La Verne Lutheran (27-5)
2010 – Dwan Hurt, Gardena Serra (34-2)
2009 – Steve Johnson, Rialto Eisenhower (31-4)
2008 – Dwight Nathaniel, Oakland McClymonds
2007 – Harvey Kitani, Los Angeles Fairfax (28-5)
2006 – Peter Diepenbrock, Palo Alto (32-1)
2005 – Pete Newell, Santa Cruz (36-1)
2004 – Don Lippi, Alameda St. Joseph (28-6)
2003 – Zack Jones, San Diego Horizon (32-1)
2002 – Ed Azzam, Los Angeles Westchester (32-2)
2001 – Vance Walberg, Fresno Clovis West (31-3)
2000 – Frank Allocco, Concord De La Salle (31-1)
1999 – Clinton Williams, Oakland Fremont (28-4)
1998 – Jerry DeBusk, Rancho S.M. Santa Margarita (32-2)
1997 – Frank LaPorte, Alameda St. Joseph (31-4)
1996 – Russell Otis, Compton Dominguez (34-2)
1995 – Steve Filios, Mountain View St. Francis (27-8)
1994 – Hank Meyer, Carmichael Jesuit (31-7)
1993 – John Barrette, Palo Alto (31-0)
1992 – Tom Orlich, South Tahoe (30-1)
1991 – Tom McCluskey, Tustin (30-4)
1990 – Lou Cvijanovich, Oxnard Santa Clara (28-0)
1989 – Willie West, L.A. Crenshaw (25-2)
1988 – Reggie Morris, L.A. Manual Arts (27-3)
1987 – Gary McKnight, Santa Ana Mater Dei (31-1)
1986 – Mike Phelps, Oakland Bishop O’Dowd (31-5)
1985 – Stephen Keith, Glendale (28-0)
1984 – Ron Palmer, Long Beach Poly (31-2)
1983 – Jorge Calienes, Rosemead Bosco Tech (25-5)
1982 – Dick Acres, Carson (26-2)
1981 – Maury Halleck, Santa Barbara San Marcos (25-1)
1980 – Leo Allamanno, Oakland Fremont (24-2)
1979 – Dave Shigematsu, Oakland Castlemont (23-3)
1978 – Ben Tapscott, Oakland McClymonds (22-3)
1977 – George Terzian, Pasadena (29-3)
1976 – Bill Armstrong, Palm Springs (22-4)
1975 – John Mihaljevich, Palos Verdes (24-6)
1974 – Dan Risley, Elk Grove (30-0)
1973 – Tom Conway, Stockton Stagg (28-0)
1972 – Tom Cleary, Fresno San Joaquin Memorial (27-2)
1971 – George McQuarn, L.A. Verbum Dei (29-2)
1970 – Spike Hensley, Berkeley (32-0)
1969 – Gordon Nash, La Mesa Helix (29-2)
1968 – Ralph Krafve, East Bakersfield (29-0)
1967 – Frank LaPorte, Oakland Bishop O’Dowd (37-2)
1966 – Len Craven, Whittier Sierra (28-1)
1965 – Leo Allamanno, Oakland Fremont (21-2)
1964 – Bill Mulligan, Long Beach Poly (32-1)
1963 – Bill Armstrong, Compton (27-4)
1962 – Dick Edwards, Sacramento El Camino (23-1)
1961 – Paul Harless, Oakland McClymonds (19-1)
1960 – Bill Thayer, L.A. Fremont (17-1)

List continues back to 1920 in the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book & Almanac.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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