By the quicker-than-usual and sudden end to the 2019-20 California high school boys basketball season, there was one more added to the 900-win club, one more added to 800 wins, one more added to 600 and we have three newly entered on our radar list of those with 500 or more all-time wins. Of course, we’ll also do our annual pitch for Mater Dei’s Gary McKnight to be in the International Basketball Hall of Fame since other high school coaches also are in that Hall of Fame right along the other all-time greats from the NBA.
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Craig Ashmore (Newark-Memorial, Newark)
Of all the coaches on the all-time state list, Ashmore moved up the most with a passage of five others who have retired. His team at Newark-Memorial in 2019-20 ended at 20-9. He’s been coaching at the school since 1991 and has more than 600 wins.
Ed Azzam (Westchester, Los Angeles)
His team won another CIF L.A. City Section title with a surprising blowout of L.A. Fairfax and he captured his 900th career win. He became just the third coach in state history to get to that plateau.
Tom Bonfigli (Cardinal Newman, Santa Rosa)
We’ll list Tom from Cardinal Newman for this post, but his recent departure from the school and subsequent hire at nearby St. Vincent of Petaluma was not pleasant. Early in the season, he did make history at Cardinal Newman by winning the 800th game of his career. Bonfigli also has coached in the Redwood Empire at Justin-Siena of Napa.
Mike Haupt (St. Augustine, San Diego)
After beginning his coaching career in 1996-97 with a program that only won seven games, Haupt (a former State Coach of the Year), won his 500th game in November when the Saints defeated Montgomery of San Diego. No doubt making the night more memorable is that his son, senior Luke Haupt, was on the floor playing for him. His other two sons, Dallas and Jake, also played for him at St. Augustine.
Don Lippi (St. Joseph Notre Dame, Alameda)
With just five more wins, Lippi will join Ed Azzam, Gary McKnight of Mater Dei and Mike LeDuc of Damien (La Verne) as the only coaches in state history with 900 wins or more. Lippi’s team in 2019-20 finished 23-8 and included all-state sophomore Jaylen Thompson.
Mike Lynch (La Salle, Pasadena)
A 90-50 blowout win by the Lancers over Bellflower gave Lynch his 600th career win, which is the one that puts him on the all-time state list. He was the coach from 1997 to 2015 at Price of Los Angeles where he won 511 games and also guided that program to six CIF state titles (in enrollment-based divisions) from 2000 to 2010. He was the high school coach of former Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year Allen Crabbe.
Gary McKnight (Mater Dei, Santa Ana)
The Monarchs reached the CIF Southern Section Open Division final and were in the CIF SoCal Open semis, which was disappointing for a group that obviously had the pieces to win both brackets. Still, McKnight is now getting close to 1,200 all-time wins. The coach considered the Godfather of U.S. boys hoops, the late Morgan Wootten of De Matha Catholic in Maryland, retired with 1,210. Wootten, along with Robert Hughes of Texas (1,333 wins) and Bob Hurley from St. Anthony of New Jersey (who has less wins than McKnight) are all currently members of the International Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Gary clearly is on track to join them if he continues at current pace.
John Olive (Torrey Pines, San Diego)
A former college coach at Villanova when the legendary Rollie Massimino was still coaching, Olive has now been at Torrey Pines for 23 seasons. He won his 500th game this season and will start the next season with 510. He has retired from teaching, but it doesn’t look like he’s interested in retiring from coaching.
Patrick Schneider (Bellarmine, San Jose)
En route to the Bells winning the American Division title at the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic (an event run by John Olive), Schneider earned his 500th win. They beat Don Lippi’s team at St. Joseph Notre Dame in the tourney final. Schneider has been at Bellarmine for 27 years and this year’s team was in the NorCal Open Division.
John Dahl (Moreno Valley)
The longtime coach of the Vikings from 1970 to 2006 died just before the season began in October at age 72. According to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, Dahl had to step down in 2006 after suffering a stroke. Moreno Valley won its only CIF Southern Section title in 1980. He won 627 games in his career. Former player Vince Cason told the Press-Enterprise: “He never seemed comfortable in the limelight and never made things about himself. But when you look at his career and the impact coach had on so many lives over the years, he deserves even more credit than he ever received.”
If there is another coach with 500 or more wins that we need to start to follow, email info to firstname.lastname@example.org.