Congratulations to all of the 2021 Cal-Hi Sports State Coaches of the year for girls basketball. These are the ones for each of our five state divisions, although we do combine the Open and Division I. Two of these honorees sure are glad the CIF Central Coast Section had playoffs this spring because their teams won titles in that section.
For more on this year’s overall State Coach of the Year announcement, CLICK HERE.
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Note: Open Division and Division I coaches are considered for the same category. For the other divisions, they are based on our own five divisions for this season since there were no state playoffs and not every section had playoffs. We know that competitive equity placements have altered the overall strength of teams in the lower divisions, but we have years and years of choosing coaches from D1 through D5 and it’s just a lot easier to simply continue in the same format. The differences in competitive equity for the Open/D1 category will be seen on the all-state teams with much larger numbers of players from those teams gaining honors.
OPEN DIVISION/DIVISION I
Martin Woods (Centennial, Corona)
As the overall State Coach of the Year, Woods also goes into this position for this category. While he became just the second State Coach of the Year from the Inland Empire, there have been others recently for the Open/D1, including Anders Anderson of Etiwanda in 2013 and Gail Hale of Moreno Valley Canyon Springs in 2011.
Last 11 honorees: 2020 Vanessa Nygaard (Los Angeles Windward); 2019 Alicia Komaki (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon); 2018 McKinsey Hadley (Gardena Serra); 2017 Craig Campbell (Fresno Clovis West); 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).
Steve Picchi (Sequoia, Redwood City)
We hardly ever choose a coach of the year twice, but this one with Picchi was too much to bypass. His other selection happens to be from way back in 1988 in D3 when he was the head coach at a different school, Burlingame, and when the Panthers went 36-2 and won a CIF state title.
This year, as the head coach at Sequoia, Picchi’s girls only played nine games, but they were in the CIF Central Coast Section D1 playoffs and won their second section title in three years. The Ravens (8-1) defeated Los Altos, 36-32, in the final.
Picchi has been the girls coach for two separate stints at Sequoia and also has coached at local San Mateo County colleges. He’s reportedly won more than 350 games and this year was aided by four-time CIF state champion head Mike Ciardella (Sacred Heart Prep) as an assistant coach.
According to the San Mateo Daily Journal, Picchi also recently moved to Turlock and it doesn’t look like he can make that trek to Sequoia anymore. In fact, for this year’s playoffs, he stayed at a local hotel.
In gaining this statewide selection for D2, Picchi is the first from the CCS to land it since Wade Nakamura from Presentation of San Jose in 2011.
With a career that began at Burlingame in 1981 with a divisional state coach of the year honor, it apparently will end in 2021 at Sequoia with a second one.
Last 11 honorees: 2020 Rashaan Shehee (Bakersfield); 2019 Jose Herrera (Alhambra Mark Keppel); 2018 Roger DiCarlo (San Marcos); 2017 Allison Johnson (Fairfield Vanden); 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).
Lynley Takaki (Lynbrook, San Jose)
After losing in the CIF Central Coast Section D2 final in 2019 and then having to play powerhouse Archbishop Mitty of San Jose in the Open Division last year, the Vikings won the D2 section crown this year with a 54-47 triumph against St. Francis of Mountain View. Takaki also was the head coach for Lynbrook’s last CCS title team in 2014.
The decision to select her for D3 state coach of the year already had been made, but while researching her career it was found that shortly before the 2021 season began that in February Lynley had lost her mother, Alison, at age 59. Alison Takaki was a longtime physical education educator and coach in the CCS for 35 years.
With a group of four senior standouts (including Lydian Li who had 27 points in the final game), Lynbrook also posted a 16-3 record this season. Takaki’s three most recent teams also were outstanding with final records of 21-6, 22-6 and 19-7.
“For them (the seniors), it means so much,” Takaki told the San Jose Mercury-News after the CCS title win. “After COVID, we said, ‘We don’t know if we’re going to play, but we’re going to prepare like we will.’ Now that we’re in June playing, there’s nothing better.”
The last head coach from the CCS to be chosen as D3 State Coach of the Year was LyRyan Russell from Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) in 2015.
Last 11 honorees: 2020 Matt Dale (Menifee Paloma Valley); 2019 Orlando Gray (Oakland); 2018 John Langston (Sacramento West Campus); 2017 Rich Yoon (Rosary Academy, Fullerton); 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).
Jerry Taylor (Roosevelt, Fresno)
There aren’t many schools in the state in which a coach leaves a program who has been a State Coach of the Year and then the next one can say he or she has the same honor.
Taylor and the previous coach of the Rough Riders, Mark Gradoville, can make that claim. Gradoville was the 2009 honoree in girls hoops for 2009 in D3 and continued to coach at Roosevelt until 2012. Taylor came in the following season and now in 2021 he’s the winner for D4.
Roosevelt bounced back from losing in the CIF Central Section D3 championship game vs. St. Joseph of Santa Maria by winning the CIF SoCal D4-AA crown with a victory against South Pasadena. The team’s final record of 21-2 included a win over D1 section finalist Clovis and comes after Taylor directed the Rough Riders to seasons of 21-10, 18-8 and 17-10.
“I didn’t think we were gonna get here, but we started moving along and started playing better teams,” Taylor told Fresno Sports Magazine. “Then Clovis came in and I knew we had the potential. I told my team ‘keep working hard, it pays off.”
Taylor also is the first D4 State COY in girls hoops since Doug White of Corcoran in 2004.
Last 11 honorees: 2020 Rick Berry (Cloverdale); 2019 LeRoy Hurt (Oakland Tech); 2018 Buck Matthews (Portola Valley Woodside Priory); 2017 Dawnesha Buckner (Los Osos, Rancho Cucamonga); 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).
Joseph Murray (St. Joseph Academy, San Marcos)
We’re not sure how Fallbrook (enrollment nearly 2,000) can be D5, but the Warriors are and St. Joseph Academy’s achievement of beating them once for a section title and then losing in the D5-AA regional playoffs by two points is impressive enough for us to give Murray the nod for the D5 coaching honor.
Murray, who also is athletic director at one of the smallest schools in he CIF San Diego Section (enrollment 74), guided the Crusaders to a 23-3 record this season. This included a 45-44 win over Fallbrook in the D3 section final and then a 39-37 loss to the Warriors in the SoCal D5-AA semifinals.
In the last five seasons as girls basketball coach at St. Joseph Academy, Murray has guided teams to records of 23-3, 21-8, 17-11, 19-5 and 15-9.
You have to go back to 2001 when San Diego last had the D5 Coach of the Year and it’s a good one: Terri Bamford of La Jolla Country Day (now one of the winningest coaches in state history).
Last 11 honorees: 2020 Jennifer Keithley (Watsonville Monte Vista Christian); 2019 Anna Almeida (Caruthers); 2018 Amy Bush (Hanford Sierra Pacific); 2017 Richard Masson (San Pedro Rolling Hills Prep); 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).