State Coach of Year: Alicia Komaki

State Coach of the Year Alicia Komaki gets instructions out to her players from Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth (left) during key moment of CIF Open Division state final. At right she gets a hug from senior Amanda Olinger. Photos: Willie Eashman.

It’s a first in the 47 years of the Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year honor as a former player of a previous State Coach of the Year has now captured the honor as well. This year’s choice, Alicia Komaki, of 33-1 CIF Open Division state champion Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth, once played for 2003 State Coach of the Year Kevin Kiernan and later coached with Kiernan as well.

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(Associate editor Harold Abend contributed to this post)

At first glance, it might look like it’s been a breeze in the early years of Alicia Komaki’s coaching career. She’s been the head coach at Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth for seven years and already has four CIF state titles. None of those state finals have actually been that close, including this year’s 69-51 triumph over Pinewood of Los Altos Hills for the Open Division title earlier this month in Sacramento.

This year’s team at Sierra Canyon also capped a 33-1 season with the only loss coming to league rival Windward of Los Angeles, a team the Trailblazers also beat twice.

Anyone thinking it was that easy, however, wasn’t watching Komaki and her girls try to survive a hurricane of three-pointers in their CIF Southern California Open Division title game matchup against Clovis West of Fresno in a contest that was played at Buchanan. With the hometown gym rocking in support of the Golden Eagles, Sierra Canyon had to rally from a 22-point deficit in the first half. That comeback was completed with a 74-70 triumph, but the team then had to get on a bus, head back to the San Fernando Valley and then prepare for the trip to Sacramento that would be made two days later.

With thoughts of that journey in mind, and from a team that wasn’t predicted to be that dominating at the beginning of the season (unlike the boys at Sierra Canyon), Komaki today has been selected as the 2019 State Coach of the Year. She joins an all-time state list of honorees that stretches back to 1972 and includes several others just recently from the San Fernando Valley — Kelli DiMuro of Chaminade (2015), Melissa Hearlihy of Harvard-Westlake (2010) — but the one name on the list without question that excites Alicia the most to be joining is 2003 honoree Kevin Kiernan.

Komaki is at the top of this pyramid of coaches from the USA Under 16 national team in photo taken in summer of 2017. Los Angeles Windward’s Vanessa Nygaard is on the bottom, far left. Photo: USA Basketball.

According to the Cal-Hi Sports state records (which are the only ones that exist), Kiernan became the winningest coach in girls hoops state history this season. He accomplished that feat as the head coach at Mater Dei of Santa Ana, where he’s been since 2008. Prior to that he was at Troy of Fullerton where one of his players in the early 2000s was Komaki. She was on the 2002 all-state team for a 29-4 squad that lost in the CIF SoCal D2 regional final to Redondo Union (Redondo Beach). Troy wouldn’t win the first of its three CIF state titles under Kiernan and before he left for Mater Dei until the following season in 2003. It also was after that 2003 season when Kiernan enjoyed his moment in the sun as the State Coach of the Year.

“That’s just crazy,” Komaki said on Wednesday when told she, like Kiernan, would now be on the all-time list of State Coaches of the Year. “If you tell him, he might just say it makes him feel old. But it makes me feel old, too. It’s just an awesome circle of life.”

Kiernan first asked Komaki to coach when she was just 19 years old. She worked at Troy as an assistant while finishing up in college at Long Beach State and continued to work at her alma mater for three additional seasons after Kiernan had departed for Mater Dei. Prior to the 2010-11 season, Komaki also switched from Troy to the Monarchs and worked there for two seasons until 2012-13 when she applied for the job at Sierra Canyon and was hired.

The two coaches continue to have a strong relationship with Kiernan often providing support through text exchanges. The one he sent after Komaki’s team lost its one game to Windward seemed to be quite helpful.

“I think we do try to avoid playing each other as much as we can,” said Komaki, who will take a 182-43 career record into next season. “He’s been such a great mentor. But we are now both in the Open Division and he obviously wants to win for his own team first. It’s just nice to have that kind of a relationship with somebody you respect so much.”

This year, some of Komaki’s youngsters had to grow up fast. Junior guard Vanessa De Jesus led the team in scoring at nearly 16 ppg, but in the final few games junior Ashley Chevalier stepped up with some great outings. Junior Alexis Mark also displayed versatile skills. The only two seniors on the roster, guard Angela Bacoulis and center Amanda Olinger, rounded out the starting lineup and both hurt the opposition with Bacoulis hitting three-pointers and Olinger blocking shots and grabbing rebounds.

“We had a good group of competitors,” Komaki said. “Our theme was to be uncommon, but we had to do the little things. We had to focus on intensity. We never took a day off. It was a really unique group of girls. They never had bad practices.”

It also helped that the Trailblazers have such a tremendous program at Windward in the same league. Not only does head coach Vanessa Nygaard’s program still have Sierra Canyon beat for winning CIF Open Division titles (two to one), but prior to this year’s first game in January it was a 2-16 record that the Wildcats had over the Trailblazers. Sierra Canyon also hadn’t beaten Windward head-to-head in nearly four years.

“It’s just a competitive coach’s dream (to be in the same league as Windward),” Komaki said. “They are as good as it gets and I think have been the best in the state over the last 10 years. They are always right there. After that first game, I told Vanessa we’d see you three times this season. She said, ‘We’ll see.’ We did.”

Komaki has enjoyed the support of her parents for all of her journeys (she said her dad went to every game this season and called the Clovis West game the “best Komaki win of all time”), but this year she also coached for the season as a married woman. She was married last July to Clint Kreutner, an aerospace engineer. She indicated in one text to Kiernan that she was learning not to bring home coaching worries to her new husband and that she was enjoying the improved balance in her life.

Next season, since Komaki and Kiernan both had rosters this season loaded with top underclassmen, it would not be a surprise to see the two State Coaches of the Year with the No. 1 and No. 2 positions in the preseason state rankings. Kiernan has added three more CIF state titles at Mater Dei for six in all, but Komaki is now not far behind with four.

McKinsey Hadley holds up ball after team at Serra (Gardena) won 2017 CIF Division I state title in Sacramento. Photo: Willie Eashman.

(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)

2019 – Alicia Komaki, Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (33-1)
2018 – McKinsey Hadley, Gardena Serra (25-8)
2017 – Craig Campbell, Fresno Clovis West (34-2)
2016 – Mark Lehman, San Bernardino Cajon (27-6)
2015 – Kelli DiMuro, West Hills Chaminade (27-4)
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
2008 – Lorene Morgan, Long Beach Millikan
2007 – Carl Buggs, Long Beach Poly (36-1)
2006 – Brian Harrigan, San Francisco Sacred Heart Cathedral (30-2)
2005 – Richard Wiard, 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)

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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