State Coach of Year: Martin Woods

It’s possible to see head coach Martin Woods (left) among his players after they won CIF SoCal Open Division title. Looking at him up close (right), it’s hard to believe that he’s a grandfather. Photos: @Cen10Athletics /

Before the fireworks went off, Corona Centennial’s Josh Giles was selected State Coach of the Year in boys basketball. The fireworks may be cooling, but the school keeps on sparkling with Martin Woods named as State Coach of the Year for girls basketball. This is the first time a school has had both state coaches of the year in the same season.

For our post on each of the divisional girls basketball State Coaches of the Year, CLICK HERE.

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After starting his coaching career as an assistant on the staff of Centennial of Corona boys basketball head coach Josh Giles, it never was in the wildest dreams of Martin Woods that he would be coaching girls basketball.

Now, following 14 years at the Huskies’ helm, and after leading Centennial to its first ever state CIF Southern Regional championship, a State Team of the Year honor and No. 1 finish in the final state rankings, Woods completes a sweep of top coaching honors for Centennial after being named the Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year.

Giles just received the same honor on the boys side several days ago before the Fourth of July.

“Oh wow, what an honor. I’m humbled and blessed to join so many great coaches,” Woods said when told he was being honored.

“And to think, I didn’t even like girls basketball back when I was assisting Josh,” Woods continued. “It was too slow for me.”

Coach Woods directs his team during a 2018 game at the San Diego Summer Classic. Photo: Harold Abend.

Giles didn’t know at the time when he was interviewed for being the State Coach of the Year for boys that Woods was going to get the same honor for the girls, but he was sure to mention his friend.

“Martin and I went through so much together when we were trying to establish the boys program the way we wanted,” Giles said. “It was a difficult, trying time and we endured it together. So to see him have the same kind of success with the girls program is awesome and fun to watch.”

And those two, of course, aren’t the only two State Coaches of the Year in the Centennial athletic complex. The football team has been led since 1997 by Matt Logan, the 2004 honoree for that sport and one of the most respected coaches in any sport in the state.

Since Centennial is not the first school to ever have the No. 1 boys and girls teams in the same season it might be a surprise to know that this is the first time both state coaches of the year are from the same school for the same season. Part of the reason for that, though, is just that Mater Dei of Santa Ana’s all-time winningest duo of Gary McKnight (boys) and Kevin Kiernan (girls) had already been state coaches of the year before when the Monarchs both won CIF Open Division state titles in 2010 and 2011.

To Woods, the girls game may have been slow when he started coaching, but he had a daughter, incoming 2007 freshman Tyler Woods, and the word in the Inland Empire was that she was a pretty good player.

“Former AD Dennis Pratt knew Tyler was a good player so he asked me to coach her and take over the girls program,” Woods said.

“At first I said no, but after re-evaluating the situation I told him I would give it four years,” Woods continued. “But here I am after 14 years because I fell in love with the girls game.”

The reality is when California girls basketball fans think of the top all-time coaches, Woods’ name doesn’t exactly pop right out, but it’s not like he’s been totally under the radar screen.

In those 14 seasons, the native of Compton and 1989 graduate of Corona (who also played at Long Beach St. Anthony’s and Dominguez of Compton) has led the Huskies to 12 winning records. The only two that didn’t happen was his first year in 2007-08, and in 2016-17 when he contemplated stepping down prior to the start of the year. Woods’ overall record is 289-121 and his teams have won 20 or more games 11 times. Since the 2013-14 season, Centennial has either won or shared five titles in the ultra-tough Big VIII League and boasts a 61-12 league record for those past eight seasons.

While this year’s team could have beaten Mater Dei of Santa Ana in their first meeting of the state’s top two ranked teams and win a first-ever CIF Southern Section championship, the Huskies won in the second meeting and last game of the season in a convincing 65-51 victory in the SoCal Open title game in Santa Ana. In that first game, it was a heartbreaking 83-80 loss in overtime at home on a last second three-pointer.

“Devastation is not a strong enough word to describe the loss to Mater Dei,” Woods remarked. “We were lethargic, didn’t execute the game plan, and after giving up an average of 48 points a game with our strength of schedule, we gave up 83 points and played our worst defensive game of the year.

Woods just completed his 14th season at Centennial and is closing in on 300 career wins. Photo:

“Although we had installed a secondary defensive game plan for the rematch, we decided to go with the same game plan as the first game,” Woods continued. “We believed we were the better team and that we just weren’t able to execute in the first game like we did in the rematch. The result is not only did we beat a great and well-coached Mater Dei, we held them to 53 points, 30 less than in the loss.”

Speaking of the Huskies’ strength of schedule, it included a 62-53 CIF SoCal Open semifinal victory over state No. 3 Clovis West (Fresno), and a 79-44 win over a short-handed No. 11 La Jolla Country Day in the opening round. Centennial took on all comers in what ended up as a 25-1 season.

Besides those two league rivals, plus Mater Dei, Clovis West and La Jolla Country Day, who they also beat 89-56 in May, eight of the Huskies’ nine non-league opponents made the final rankings. Other than Mater Dei and Clovis West, the closest margin of victory came in a season-opening 58-45 victory over an Orangewood team they later beat by 38 points in early June.

Not having a chance to win a CIF state championship in a season where they would have been a favorite does nothing to diminish the accomplishments.

“Not having the opportunity to go up and play the best team from the north was definitely a disappointment, but more so than that, it was the disappointment of not having that time to coach this entire group longer,” Woods said. “To have been able to travel up north and to have more time to spend with our amazing kids would have been everything.”

Woods was like a conductor of a fine-tuned orchestra, meaning he had top-notch talent to orchestrate.

It started with Jayda Curry, the first of two seniors moving on to play in college. The Cal-bound guard was the catalyst all season. She led the team in scoring at 21.4 points per game, and was second in rebounds with 6.4 per game, assists at 5.1 per game, and steals at 3.9 per contest. In her final high school game, the SoCal Open title-game victory over Mater Dei, Curry had a double-double 27 points and 11 rebounds with seven assists and four steals. She had 2,183 career points.

“Jayda has been part of the foundation of where our program is now,” Woods remarked. “Captain, leader on the court and off, a warrior, and work ethic is second to none. She’s a coach’s dream and will truly be missed.”

Trinity San Antonio will be playing guard at nearby Cal Baptist in Riverside. This past season she was the model of consistency after averaging 6.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 3.2 assists per game.

“Every game, she was assigned to all the best perimeter players of our opponents and always did an amazing job,” Woods said “Defense is definitely her strength, but her offense has improved greatly simply by her outstanding work ethic.”

Woods wanted to give a shout out to just about all his players.

Londynn Jones transferred from Santiago where she was one of the top freshmen and sophomores in the state and was a member of the Santiago team that won the 2019 CIF Southern Section Division 3-AA championship. The UCLA-committed junior was second in scoring last season at 21.3 points per game, while adding 3.9 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 2.4 assists per contest.

“Ultra-competitive on both ends of the floor, can create, and can flat out shoot, and has a knack to make big plays in the biggest moments,” said Woods about Jones. “We’re incredibly lucky to have her lead us next year.”

Junior Layla Curry, the younger sister of Jayda, led the team in rebounding at 9.0 per game while averaging 8.9 points a contest.

“Layla brings toughness and physicality to the team,” Wood said. “She is always undersized when guarding our opponents big but was never dominated all season.”

A lot of folks also are going to start hearing more about sophomore guard Sydni Summers. She led the team in assists at 7.4 per game with additional per game averages of 9.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.5 steals.

“A talented kid that I believe will be a DI signee after high school,” Woods said about Summers. “She’ll be even better next year because she’s a gym rat and her work ethic is incredible.”

Among the non-starters, Woods wanted to point to junior N’Dya Parks, who came off the bench to average 6.3 points and 3.8 rebounds a game, plus junior Bella Law, who grabbed 4.5 rebounds per game plus 3.1 points.

The other three girls on the 10-player roster Woods wanted to give a shout out to are sophomores Kamarah Angeles and Giuliana Catalano, and freshman Raymi Hidalgo.

Besides Curry and San Antonio, Woods has sent 22 players on to the next level, including daughter Tyler, who went on the play at Santa Clara and Cal Poly Pomona.

Woods and his family have been a big part of Centennial basketball, both girls and boys. Besides Coach Woods and Tyler, who is among the career leaders in points assists and steals, his son Daveon Woods was a member of the 2007 CIF Southern Section Division 2-A title team that won the school’s first boys basketball section title.

Woods’ wife, Shante Woods, a compliance coordinator at Western University in Pomona, was a cheerleader at Dominguez when they met, and they’ve been together ever since the 10th grade. The couple has three grandchildren and are expecting a fourth in October.

When he’s not coaching basketball, Woods teaches graphic design at Centennial and has even done some work in the past for Nike, the Jordan Camp, LeBron Camp, Kobe Camp, and the Tiger Woods Foundation.

Jayda Curry, who is already at Cal, took time out after July 4th workouts with the Bears to talk about her former coach.

“Playing for Coach Woods was definitely an experience I’m forever grateful for. Being able to play for and learn from him for four years has definitely been a blessing for me,” Curry said. “He pushed me every day to not only be a better basketball player, but more importantly a better person off the court.

“I can speak for myself and my team when I say Coach Woods has taught us many things in our time with him, to never lose sight of who we are as individuals, and who we are as a program,” Curry continued. “He taught us that finding positivity in situations that were difficult and dark is what would bring us back to the light. He preached about using losses, negativity and doubt, as motivation to bounce back and be successful, and this year that’s something we did.”

Curry and San Antonio are gone but with the players that are returning, Woods and his girls will be one of the top teams in the upcoming preseason state rankings.

Woods becomes just the second coach from the Inland Empire to be named State Coach of the Year, with both coming in the past six years. Mark Lehman of San Bernardino Cajon was the 2016 honoree.

(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)

Vanessa Nygaard directs her team during a timeout in the 2018 CIF Open Division South title game. Photo: Nick Koza.

2021 – Martin Woods, Corona Centennial (25-1)
2020 – Vanessa Nygaard, Los Angeles Windward (26-7)
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 (29-3)
2008 – Lorene Morgan,
Long Beach Millikan (28-5)
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 Archbishop 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)

Harold Abend is the associate editor of and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend

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