Congratulations to all of the Cal-Hi Sports State Coaches of the year for girls basketball. These are the ones for each CIF division and it’s a group that includes a first-year head coach who turned around a program that went 6-19 last season plus a former athletic director and boys coach with 29 years of success at a previous school.
For more on this year’s overall State Coach of the Year announcement, CLICK HERE.
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Note: Writeups by Mark Tennis, Paul Muyskens & Harold Abend. For this year, Open Division and Division I coaches were considered for the same category. For the other divisions, they are based on those in the CIF state playoffs and not section playoffs.
OPEN DIVISION/DIVISION I
Craig Campbell (Clovis West, Fresno)
As the overall State Coach of the Year, Campbell also falls into the top spot for this category. He actually was the D1 choice for 2014 when the overall State Coach of the Year was Kelli DiMuro of West Hills Chaminade. Being a previous divisional honoree does not make us less likely to choose a coach for the overall, but once a coach gets onto the all-time State Coach of the Year list then that’s pretty much it as far as honors from us are concerned.
With all of the senior leadership on this year’s team, Clovis West’s success to some degree was expected. Maybe we should have waited until next year to honor Campbell because with all of the players graduating he’s going to probably have to coach even more effectively next season than this season. Still, this clearly was the year to get Coach Campbell onto the all-time list.
Last 10 honorees: 2016 Torino Johnson (Palisades, Pacific Palisades); 2015 Kelli DiMuro (West Hills Chaminade); 2014 Craig Campbell (Fresno Clovis West); 2013 Anders Anderson (Etiwanda); 2012 Cheryl Draper (Berkeley); 2011 Gail Hale (Moreno Valley Canyon Springs); 2010 Marty Verdugo (Santa Monica); 2009 Ron Hirschman (Danville Monte Vista); 2008 Lorene Morgan (Long Beach Millikan); 2007 Carl Buggs (Long Beach Poly).
Allison Johnson (Vanden, Fairfield)
With the new competitive equity formula for basketball crowning so many new teams as state champions in each and every division, it has also given many new coaches a chance to win statewide honors.
For some, like Allison Johnson, they have some formidable resumes. Since taking the Vanden helm 13 years ago Johnson, with her husband Jake Johnson at her side the whole time, and with many of her players over the years from families whose parents serve in the military at adjacent Travis Air Force Base, has won 13 consecutive league titles and has been the league’s Coach of the Year every season.
In the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section, Johnson has coached the Vikings into a section title game five times with victories in Division III in 2015 and Division II in 2017 and last season. The Vanden health science teacher has had her team in the Northern Regional finals twice and this past season won hers’ and the school’s first NorCal title that led to a 31-5 season that ended on a 24-game winning streak and culminated in a Division II state championship game victory over Mater Dei of Santa Ana.
Her career coaching record stands at 335-72 for a sparkling 82.3 winning percentage, and her teams have never had less than a 20-win season.
“This team made my dream come true but I didn’t want it for me I wanted it for them,” Johnson said. “Over the years all the work Jake and I have done makes this award a representation of that work and the effort of every one of the teams we’ve coached.”
The CIF Sac-Joaquin Section has tended to do well in this category. Johnson is the fifth D2 State COY from the SJS in the last 10 years.
Last 10 honorees: 2016 Mark Lehman (San Bernardino Cajon); 2015 Miguel Granillo (Tracy Kimball); 2014 Kelli DiMuro (Chaminade, West Hills); 2013 Michelle Massari (Sacramento); 2012 Leonard DeCoud (Riverside J.W. North); 2011 Wade Nakamura (San Jose Presentation); 2010 Tom Parrish (Hanford); 2009 Steve White (El Dorado Hills Oak Ridge); 2008 Victor Pitton (Sacramento St. Francis); 2007 Rick Thompson (Norco).
Rich Yoon (Rosary, Fullerton)
The Orange County Register Coach of the Year adds a statewide honor to his resume, another residual effect of the Royals winning their first CIF Southern Section championship since 1999 and their first state championship in program history. That came after they defeated Campolindo of Moraga in the CIF Division III state finals.
In his 25th season at the school, Yoon’s team won 30 games, but it was the last two that really stood out. Before then, it was a grind for Rosary, including two one-point overtime wins during its run to the section championship.
“Timing is everything,” Yoon said on Thursday afternoon after being informed of the D3 coaching honor. “I think (the girls) just started to understand what to do. As we went on, we just got better and better. They kept wanting to go fast-paced, but I kept telling them we don’t have the depth to do that. We had to play at our own pace, let our shot-blocker (Rebekah Obinma) get into place and don’t turn it over.”
Yoon, a graduate of Cal State Long Beach, has been coaching girls basketball and teaching AP Chemistry and Honor Chemisty for all of those 25 years at Rosary. He had no previous coaching experience, but described himself as “a big student of the game” who has learned from attending numerous clinics and conventions. It also helps that he’s become friendly with some of the other top coaches in Orange County, including Santa Ana Mater Dei’s Kevin Kiernan. When Kiernan was winning CIF state titles at Troy of Fullerton, he and Yoon were in the same city. Now they’re in the same league.
Last 10 honorees: 2016 Kelly Sopak (Orinda Miramonte); 2015 LyRyan Russell (S.F. Sacred Heart Cathedral); 2014 Andrew Butcher (Santa Barbara); 2013 Malik McCord (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2012 Malik McCord (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2011 Tom Howard (Orange Lutheran); 2010 Tony Scott (Inglewood); 2009 Mark Gradoville (Fresno Roosevelt); 2008 Michael Anderson (Anaheim Magnolia); 2007 Richard Schaaf (Rancho SM Santa Margarita).
Dawnesha Buckner (Los Osos, Rancho Cucamonga)
While the Grizzlies came up one win shy of a CIF Division IV state championship, it was a tremendous turnaround season for a program that was just 6-19 last season. Before Buckner arrived this season, Los Osos also had not had a winning season in five years and had the enviable task of being in the same league as Open Division state powerhouse Etiwanda.
While the Grizzlies couldn’t get past Etiwanda, they did finish 27-4 and 8-2 in league and got to a state final.
Before taking over this season, Buckner was previously at Bloomington Christian for two seasons where her team made deep postseason runs. Her junior daughter, Dynnah, also came to Los Osos with her and she had a strong season, too. Dynnah averaged a team-leading 18.2 points per game.
Buckner also becomes the first-ever D4 State Coach of the Year in girls hoops from the Inland Emptire/Inland Valley region since the statewide recognation program began in 1994.
Last 10 honorees: 2016 Stephen Pezzola (Richmond Salesian); 2015 David Esparza (Anaheim Fairmont Prep); 2014 Jim Hart (Scotts Valley); 2013 McKinsey Hadley (Gardena Serra); 2012 Terri Bamford (La Jolla Country Day); 2011 Steve Smith (Los Angeles Windward); 2010 Melissa Hearlihy (North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake); 2009 David Monroe (Chula Vista Mater Dei); 2008 Dr. Rodney Faucett (Vallejo St. Patrick-St. Vincent); 2007 Bo Corona (Inglewood St. Mary’s Academy).
Richard Masson (Rolling Hills Prep, San Pedro)
The longtime former athletic director and boys basketball coach at Carson enjoyed a great season in his third year with the girls at Rolling Hills Prep. Even though most of this year’s team was comprised of freshmen, Masson’s girls finished 30-4 and went to the CIF Division V state final where the lost to Eastside Prep, whose head coach (Donovan Blythe) earned this same honor just two years ago.
Rolling Hills Prep went to another retired L.A. City coach, Harvey Kitani, to coach this year’s boys team. Masson had already shown that such a move would work well. He began coaching boys basketball at Carson not long after the Colts won the 1982 CIF Division I state title and previously had coached at Fremont of Los Angeles.
Masson retired as Carson’s AD and basketball coach in 2009. He had served that school for 29 years and in his career in all sports he coached he had more than 500 wins and 20 league championships.
Another reason we were impressed with Masson this season is that when Rolling Hills Prep won its section title there were just six players in all that could be used. He also is the first-ever D5 State Coach of the Year in girls hoops from the South Bay region of the CIF Southern Section.
Last 10 honorees: 2016 Jon Sampang (Sun Valley Village Christian); 2015 Donovan Blythe (East Palo Alto Eastside Prep); 2014 Doc Scheppler (Los Altos Hills Pinewood); 2013 Alicia Komaki (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon); 2012 Que Ngo (Stockton Brookside Christian); 2011 Julianne Berry (Alameda St. Joseph Notre Dame); 2010 Doc Scheppler (Los Altos Hills Pinewood); 2009 Mike Rubie (Sacramento Bradshaw Christian); 2008 Mike Talps (Oakland Head-Royce); 2007 Doug Croue (Santa Rosa Rincon Valley Christian).