Congratulations to all of the Cal-Hi Sports State Coaches of the year for boys basketball. Two of the five honorees based on CIF state playoff divisions were from state title teams, one was from a Open Division team, one was from a team that won its second straight section title and one was to recognize a coach who has inspired many in his community and in his region of the state.
For more on this year’s overall State Coach of the Year announcement, CLICK HERE.
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(Managing editor Ronnie Flores contributed to this post.)
OPEN DIVISION/DIVISION I
Dave Kleckner (Etiwanda)
This is actually the second straight year that an Inland Empire head coach has been at the top of this category. It was Steve Singleton from Roosevelt of Eastvale last year. Kleckner automatically goes on as the winner by being State Coach of the Year. He was the D1 honoree in 2015. Getting the overall honor is the only way someone gets a divisional coaching honor twice.
Kleckner’s club in 2017-18 was led by Pepperdine-bound Kessler Edwards along with senior guards Elijah Harkless and Krystian Wilson. Toward the end of the season, he brought up several players from the JV level and one of those who contributed right away was freshman forward Jahmai Mashack. In Kleckner’s system, younger players always seem to be ready to step up in subsequent seasons.
Last 10 honorees: 2017 Steve Singleton (Eastvale Roosevelt); 2016 Russell White (Encino Crespi); 2015 Dave Kleckner (Etiwanda); 2014 Nick Jones (Monte Vista, Danville); 2013 James Hecht (Santa Monica); 2012 Tony Amundsen (Fresno Bullard); 2011 Gary McKnight (Santa Ana Mater Dei); 2010 Reggie Morris Jr. (Lawndale Leuzinger); 2009 Bill Powers (Danville Monte Vista); 2008 Dwight Nathaniel (Oakland McClymonds).
Ryan Bailey (Brentwood, Los Angeles)
In his eighth season after coming over to Brentwood from an assistant’s position at Loyola of Los Angeles, Bailey has been keeping the family name prominent in Southern California basketball. He is the younger brother of former UCLA standout Toby Bailey, who we once featured on a cover of our old Student Sports Magazine in the 1990s. Ryan later played at UCLA as well.
This year’s team at Brentwood won its second straight CIFSS title, capturing the crown in D2AA after winning it in D3AA in 2017. The Eagles topped league rival Crossroads in this year’s section final, but Crossroads won the CIF D2 state title.
Also serving as Brentwood’s associate athletic director, Bailey’s squads in recent seasons have posted records of 27-5 in 2013, 23-7 in 2015, 24-9 last year and 26-8 for the 2017-18 season.
Bailey is only the second coach from an L.A. Westside area private school to be a state coach of the year. The only other one is Miguel Villegas from Windward of Los Angeles for Division 4 in 2011.
Last 10 honorees: 2017 Mark Hill (Anaheim Esperanza); 2016 Michael Booker (El Cerrito); 2015 Chuck Rapp (San Mateo); 2014 Mike Wall (Folsom); 2013 Reggie Morris Jr. (Redondo Beach Redondo Union); 2012 Patrick Roy (Inglewood); 2011 Dan Larson (Ventura); 2010 Jason Bryant (San Diego Lincoln); 2009 Steve Johnson (Rialto Eisenhower); 2008 Steve Taylor (Rocklin).
Tim Keating (Pleasant Valley, Chico)
There’s a good chance that Keating will be leading the Pleasant Valley program for a long time. Keating, who guided the Vikings to their first CIF state title and just the fourth state title ever won by a school from the CIF Northern Section, moved up from being a freshman coach in 2012 and replaced Randy Gilzean, who had the post for 18 seasons. Before Gilzean, Denny Varley was the longtime head coach of the Vikings for 25 years.
Keating has had two .500 seasons since he took over, but in the last three seasons Pleasant Valley has gone 21-6 and 23-7. This year’s team ended 32-2 after the win in the CIF Division III state final against Notre Dame of Riverside, which also was a 30-win team. Keating is a graduate of Chico State and while there one of his roommates was Bob Paddock, who this year was Pleasant Valley’s girls basketball head coach and whose team played for the CIF D2 state title at the Golden 1 Center just before Keating’s team played.
The divisional state coaching honors were begun in 1988 and Keating is just the third coach from a CIF Northern Section school to be selected for one of them. The first was John Strohmayer from Central Valley of Lake Shasta for 1989 in Division III. The second was Jim Vossler of Colusa for 1990 in Division V.
Last 10 honorees: 2017 Arnold Zelaya (San Francisco Mission); 2016 David Brigante (Santa Barbara); 2015 Matt Dunn (Damien, La Verne); 2014 Todd Wolfson (Chaminade, West Hills); 2013 Mike Haupt (San Diego St. Augustine); 2012 Tim Tucker (Pasadena); 2011 Eric Cooper Sr. (La Verne Lutheran); 2010 Dwan Hurt (Gardena Serra); 2009 Jim Harris Sr. (Huntington Beach Ocean View).
Kraig Clifton (Calaveras, San Andreas)
With all due respect to the coaches of teams that were in the CIF D4 state final, this is a coach we’ve been wanting to honor for awhile and this became a good way to do that. This year’s team at Calaveras under Clifton posted its fifth straight 20-win season, but it’s what happened to him just before the 2015-2016 season and how he’s handled it is what truly stands out.
Clifton was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer. That’s one of the worst types of cancer anyone can have. Clifton basically gave up coaching for that season but was still officially listed as Calaveras’ head coach. His assistants and his father, Dale, ran the team. Kraig Clifton, who has four children, went into full battle mode against the cancer. He returned to the bench for the 2016-17 season and then this season the 44-year-old enjoyed another winning season. Calaveras (22-9) beat Ripon and Liberty Ranch of Galt in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D4 playoffs before losing to Placer of Auburn and then in the CIF NorCal D4 playoffs Clifton’s team beat Woodside Priory in the first round before losing to West Campus of Sacramento.
We don’t go actively looking for inspirational stories to go with coach of the year honors, but when we already know of one and have a chance to choose one then sometimes we’ll do it. And it’s not like Clifton is just getting honored for overcoming adversity. He has been a head coach at Calaveras for 17 years and in addition to the five straight 20-win seasons there’s been additional league titles and SJS playoff wins.
Last 10 honorees: 2017 Derek Walker (Vallejo St. Patrick-St. Vincent); 2016 J.J. Prince (Calabasas Viewpoint); 2015 Russell White (Encino Crespi); 2014 Doug Mitchell (Torrance Bishop Montgomery); 2013 Tom Bonfigli (Santa Rosa Cardinal Newman); 2012 Bill Mellis (Richmond Salesian); 2011 Miguel Villegas (Los Angeles Windward); 2010 Manny Nodar (Berkeley St. Mary’s); 2009 Bill Mellis (Richmond Salesian); 2008 Terry Kelly (North Hollywood Campbell Hall); 2007 Ron Pucci (Colfax).
James Mosley (Santa Clarita Christian, Canyon Country)
In his 17th year at Santa Clarita Christian, everything fell into place for Mosley and the Cardinals to win the CIF Division V state championship. They had the right players, played a schedule early on that got them ready and didn’t have to play in a higher division due to competitive equity.
In addition to serving in multiple roles at Santa Clarita Christian, Mosley also happens to be an assistant coach at The Master’s College while at the same time being the head coach at the high school. The head coach at The Master’s College is Kelvin Starr, who also happens to be the father of Santa Clarita Christian standouts Jordan Starr and Caden Starr. It appears that Mosley and Starrs handled their multiple roles without any difficulty.
There have been other coaches from the San Fernando Valley region to be a divisional state coach of the year — the last was Jon Shaw from Village Christian of Sun Valley in 2012 for D5 — but Mosley is the first one from a Santa Clarita Valley school.
Last 10 honorees: 2017 Robbie Robinson (Riverside Notre Dame); 2016 Don Lippi (Alameda St. Joseph Notre Dame); 2015 John Maffucci (Carlsbad Army-Navy); 2014 Sid Cooke (Renaissance Academy, La Canada); 2013 Kevin McCloskey (San Gabriel Academy); 2012 Jon Shaw (Sun Valley Village Christian); 2011 Mike Jarvis (Vacaville Christian); 2010 Ed Kelly (Watsonville St. Francis CCC); 2009 Mike Rubie (Sacramento Bradshaw Christian); 2008 Jonas Honick (Ross Branson).