We’ll have a separate post coming on Thursday containing the actual all-decade all-state boys basketball teams for the 2010s, but for this first announcement we’re taking care of the major awards: State Player of the Decade, State Coach of the Decade, State Team of the Decade and State Game of the Decade. Mater Dei of Santa Ana gets the nod in two of the four categories, was considered runner-up in another and was directly involved in the fourth.
Note: We hope you enjoy this free post on CalHiSports.com. The all-state all-decade first and second teams will be posts for our Gold Club members only. We think that presentation alone would be worth a one-month subscription, but we also will have more all-state all-decade teams coming out in other sports over the next few days. And starting in January, we’ll have all of our usual boys basketball state rankings (all Gold Club). To sign up today, CLICK HERE.
CAL-HI SPORTS BOYS BASKETBALL
STATE PLAYER OF THE DECADE:
Stanley Johnson (Mater Dei, Santa Ana)
Back in 2014, a talented sophomore point guard by the name of Lonzo Ball wasn’t having his best shooting game of the season, to say the least, when his young Chino Hills team met 30-0 Mater Dei of Santa Ana in the first CIF Southern Section Open Division championship game. Still, with 8.5 seconds remaining, the Huskies still had a good chance to win the game. Ball fired a 3-pointer from the left wing that would have given his team a 47-46 lead, but the shot was off. Mater Dei senior forward Stanley Johnson then iced the game with two free throws to give his team a 48-44 win and Johnson’s second career major division section title.
Just as he was in most of his team’s big games over the final three years of his high school career, Johnson was the difference in that low-scoring affair with 28 points and 15 rebounds. Johnson went on to cap a storybook career with a 35-0 season, as Mater Dei finished No. 2 in the FAB 50 national rankings (it was declared mythical national champions by at least one credible publication).
By virtue of playing a major role on four consecutive CIF state title winning-teams, including dominant seasons as a junior and senior, today Stanley Johnson has been named the Cal-Hi Sports 2010s Player of the Decade. Johnson was only the second player in state history (Oscar Edwards of L.A. Price in 2000-2003 was the first) to star on four consecutive state title-winning teams and the first player to do it in the CIF’s highest classification.
Johnson’s final state title was the most impressive, as the Monarchs lost a key cog to transfer (Mario Soto) right before the season began and played a daunting schedule. At times against tough competition (that year’s CIFSS open playoffs was the toughest 16-team section playoff bracket in state history), Johnson seemed to will Mater Dei to victory, averaging 25.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, and 3.1 apg in the process. Many coaches felt the 2013-14 Mater Dei team was “most beatable” in terms of overall talent and personnel compared to the other three teams Johnson played on. That made Johnson a cinch Mr. Basketball Player of the Year after being nipped for the state’s highest honor as a junior by fellow first team all-decade choice Aaron Gordon of San Jose Mitty.
The all-decade deliberations were close, too, when it came to selecting Johnson over Ball and Gordon for Cal-Hi Sports Player of the Decade honors. What if Lonzo hits that 3-pointer at the Honda Center and Chino Hills wins the game? First off, that would have erased Mater Dei’s perfect season and its road to the 2014 CIF Open title would have been a tad bit harder as a section runner-up.
CAL-HI SPORTS BOYS BASKETBALL
STATE TEAM OF THE DECADE:
Chino Hills 2016 (35-0)
After not winning state titles in 2014 and 2015, Lonzo Ball would also go on to lead his team to a perfect 35-0 season in 2015-2016. Even with two 14-year old freshmen starters, all-decade choice Onyeka Okongwu and Melo Ball, Lonzo’s youngest brother, that Chino Hills team was a bit more dominant in its playoff run than Mater Dei was two years earlier. Chino Hills’s 2015-16 team finished No. 1 in the FAB 50 and is considered the Cal-Hi Sports Team of the Decade.
Lonzo and Melo’s middle brother, Li’Angelo, also was a prolific scorer for the Huskies that season and in fact led them in scoring with 27. 4 ppg. Lonzo averaged 23.9 with triple-doubles nearly every night (11.3 rebounds, 11.5 assists). Melo added 16.4 ppg while junior glue man Eli Scott had 15.8 ppg and 8.6 rebounds.
Head coach Steve Baik’s team completed its perfect season with a 70-50 win over Concord De La Salle in the CIF Open Division state final in the last high school game played at the old Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. The Huskies also are the highest-scoring team in state history with 18 100-point games and a 98.5 ppg average. The national, though, was more based on winning the City of Palms tourney in Florida over Jefferson (Brooklyn, N.Y.); Montverde Academy (Florida); High Point Christian (N.C.); and Patrick School (N.J.).
CAL-HI SPORTS BOYS BASKETBALL
STATE SCHOOL OF THE DECADE:
Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
The school’s four major division CIF titles (the only other program to win more than one was Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth in 2018-19) and four major division CIFSS titles (2010, 2011, 2014, 2018) make the Monarchs a fairly easy selection in this category. They’d arguably be up there for the decades of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, too.
CAL-HI SPORTS BOYS BASKETBALL
STATE COACH OF THE DECADE:
Gary McKnight (Mater Dei, Santa Ana)
Mater Dei’s victory over eventual CIF State open champ Sierra Canyon in the 2018 CIFSS Open Division title game gave McKnight his 23rd section championship since he took over as Mater Dei’s coach in 1982-83. He enters the new decade with a state record 11 CIF state crowns and a state-leading 1,136-110 overall record as McKnight continues to build his resume for possible nomination into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.
McKnight has been a consistent winner ever since arriving at Mater Dei because he’s always had great players, but this decade he received more credit for his staff’s preparation and execution. The two teams that stand out in that regard are the 2012-13 team in Johnson’s junior year that had to replace three Pac-12 recruits (including third team all-Decade choice Katin Reinhardt) and still went on to a third consecutive CIF state title. The other team was Mater Dei’s 2014-15 team after Johnson left for Arizona. There wasn’t really much drop-off, as all-decade choice Rex Pflueger stepped up big-time and led the Monarchs to a fifth consecutive CIF Major Division title game.
Previous State Coaches of the Decade
(We just did this for football and are doing it for boys hoops)
(And like coaches of the year, no one is going to be on the list more than once.)
1970s: Leo Allamanno (Fremont, Oakland). Tough decade to settle on just one, but Allamanno represents a golden decade and golden era for Oakland Athletic League hoops. He was the coach of our 1977 State Team of the Year, also was our 1980 State Coach of the Year and had teams that did consistently well against the best teams in Northern California. He retired in 1983 with a record of 449-191, including four Oakland TOC titles and 10 league crowns.
1980s: Willie West (Crenshaw, Los Angeles). He won four of his eight CIF state titles during the 1980s and was the 1989 State Coach of the Year. West retired in 2007 with 803-140 career record.
1990s: Lou Cvijanovich (Santa Clara, Oxnard). For many years the winningest coach in CIFSS history, Cvijanovich won CIF state titles at the beginning and end of the decade (1990, 1999).
2000s: Ed Azzam (Westchester, Los Angeles). He recently won his 900th game in a career that began in 1979-80 and had his best CIF state title teams in the 2000s.
State Game of the Decade:
Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 65, Mater Dei 64 (OT)
It took overtime, but eventually the Dragons downed the Monarchs, 65-64, in the 2015 CIF Open Division championship on a made free throw by all-decade center Ivan Rabb with .8 seconds remaining. Most of the CIF state championships nowadays take place in Sacramento, but the atmosphere that night at Haas Pavilion reminded us of the enthusiastic crowds that used to come out for the state playoffs at the Oakland Coliseum in the 1980s. The crowd definitely gave the Dragons some extra tailwind and it still took a gift roll and four extra minutes to knock off head coach Gary McKnight’s club. Rex Pflueger missed a potential game-winning shot and MJ Cage’s put-back hung and slowly rolled off the rim as the buzzer sounded right after O’Dowd attempted to call a timeout it didn’t have that, because of the noise and moment, hardly any one noticed.
Because of the atmosphere and significance of the game, that 2015 CIF Open title game is the Cal-Hi Sports Game of the Decade. It prevented Mater Dei from winning a fifth consecutive CIF state crown and snapped O’Dowd’s eight-game losing streak in CIF state title games. That O’Dowd team remains the only NorCal club to win a CIF Open Division championships since its inception in 2012-13.