Girls BB: More State Coaches of Year

State Open/D1 Coach of the Year Charles Solomon of L.A. Brentwood (left) is shown greeting 2010 State Coach of the Year Melissa Hearlihy of Harvard-Westlake prior to the D2 state final. At right is Oakland High head coach Nita Simpson sitting near CIF D5 state title trophy. Photos: & Mark Tennis / Cal-Hi Sports.

Congratulations to all of the 2023-24 Cal-Hi Sports State Coaches of the year for girls basketball. These are the ones for each of the five state divisions, although we do combine the Open and Division I.

For more on this year’s overall State Coach of the Year announcement, CLICK HERE.
(Associate editor Harold Abend contributed to these honors.)

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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 the same five divisions for this season in which teams were placed by the CIF for the Northern California & Southern California regional 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.

Charles Solomon (Brentwood, Los Angeles)

In most years, the Open Division/D1 coaching honor also is the same as the overall winner. This year, that isn’t the case, but we’re pretty sure Coach Solomon will be excited to be on the all-time list of Open/D1 honorees for the last 14 years.

Solomon is highly respected among his coaching peers in Southern California and is serving as a point person for the SoCal coaching association that is hosting the Girls California Live event next June sanctioned by the CIF that allows college coaches to attend. He’s being honored, however, for what his team at Brentwood did this season and during the years he’s been there since 2010.

In the last six seasons (not counting COVID), Brentwood has put together records of 27-9, 28-7, 22-12, 22-8, 25-8 and 30-5. Solomon’s team in 2022 won the CIF Southern Section D2A championship and this year the Eagles made it two in a row despite being in the higher D1 playoffs.

In this year’s SoCal D1 regional playoffs, the Eagles staged a furious rally in the semifinals to get past Moreno Valley when they were down by 15 in the fourth quarter but then lost to eventual CIF D1 state champion Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) by three points in the final. They moved up to No. 14 in the final, expanded State TOP 40 rankings. Despite the loss, Solomon still made the trip to Sacramento to cheer on his coaching friends, including Harvard-Westlake’s Melissa Hearlihy.

Although Solomon is still looking for a CIF state title, he also has a 2014 CIFSS title on his coaching resume. He came to Brentwood after starting his girls hoops coaching career from 2005 to 2009 at his alma mater, Beverly Hills. In a 2018 bio, Solomon listed he had over 300 wins at the time. We’re pretty sure it’s now over 400 and hope to get a firm total from him in time for No. 500.

Last 14 honorees: 2023 Stan Delus (Etiwanda); 2022 Stephen Pezzola (Richmond Salesian); 2021 Martin Woods (Corona Centennial); 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).

Pleasant Valley of Chico head coach Bob Paddock is shown during a team huddle during 2023 season. Photo: Jane Dysert / SportStars.

Bob Paddock (Pleasant Valley, Chico)

Both of the coaches in the CIF D2 state final have been selected for these honors before, including Melissa Hearlihy the 2010 State Coach of the Year from Harvard-Westlake and Rexanne Simpton the 2023 D3 State Coach of Year from Colfax. It didn’t take long to find another deserving person.

Paddock has been a head coach in the CIF Northern Section for nearly 20 years and his teams have been close to winning a state title three times. This year’s team finished 26-8, won its fourth straight section title and knocked off an Oakland Tech team in the NorCal D2 semifinals that was going for a fourth straight CIF state title. The Vikings then lost to Colfax in the regional finals. His team in 2023 ended 30-4 and went to the NorCal D2 championship where it lost to eventual champion Central of Fresno. The first time PV got close was in 2018 when it reached the CIF D2 state title game, but lost to Redondo Union of Redondo Beach.

In that 2018 season, Paddock’s girls were joined in the CIF state finals by the Pleasant Valley boys, who won in their state championship. Head coach Tim Keating was later named the 2018 D3 Boys Basketball State Coach of the Year. Keating and Paddock now have the same divisional honor. They played together and were roommates in college at Chico State.

Paddock began his coaching career at PV in the 2005-06 school year. He left the school for smaller program Durham for the 2008-09 school year and stayed at Durham until 2016 when he decided to return to PV.

In the history of divisional state coaches of the year for girls hoops, which extends back to 1988, Paddock is the first ever in D2 from the Northern Section. The last divisional coach of the year from the section in any division was Shawn Flaherty from Liberty Christian of Redding for D5 in 2006. Anderson’s Larry Newman was State Coach of the Year in 1982.

Last 14 honorees: 2023 Bo Corona (Lawndale Leuzinger); 2022 Kerwin Walters (Newport Beach Sage Hill); 2021 Steve Picchi (Redwood City Sequoia); 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).

Anna Almeida (Caruthers)

This is the first time that Anna has been the D3 coach of the year, which had to happen with her selection this year as the overall State Coach of the Year. She previously gained a divisional coaching honor for D5 when the Blue Raiders won their first CIF state title. We don’t ever have an overall State Coach of the Year picked more than once, but a divisional honoree can get it a second time when he/she is also the overall honoree. Some may not agree with that policy, but we’ve done state coaching honors for more than 30 years in five sports (way longer than anyone else) and there are always deserving candidates. This isn’t Kansas we’re in, folks. California basketball can handle such a policy quite easily.

Last 14 honorees: 2023 Rexanne Simpton (Colfax); 2022 Dave Kavern (Porterville); 2021 Lynley Takaki (San Jose Lynbrook); 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).

St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin gives out instructions to his team during CIF D4 state championship. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Matt Tomlin (St. Bernard’s, Eureka)

There is no overall state coach of the year selection for combined sports so this one for D4 in girls hoops will have to do for Tomlin. St. Bernard’s captured this year’s CIF D4 state title with a victory earlier this month over Grossmont of El Cajon and wrapped up a 30-5 season.

The victory also set some history for Tomlin as he became the first coach in the state to earn CIF state titles in both football and girls basketball. The CIF football titles also came in lower divisions in 2015 and 2019, but just like Grossmont many of the schools that Tomlin’s teams had to beat were a lot larger than St. Bernard’s, which has less than 200 students.

Tomlin was hired as athletic director and football/girls hoops coach in 2013 as a side gig to his full-time job at the time in law enforcement. He became full-time at the school where he graduated from as teacher, AD and coach three years later.

This year’s state title was preceded by a NorCal regional title win over local rival Arcata. That was not the first NorCal crown for the St. Bernard’s girls, however, as they won CIF NorCal D6 titles with Tomlin as head coach in 2015 and 2016. There is no D6 for Southern California so that’s as far as those teams could go. Tomlin also was the head coach of the Crusaders’ baseball team that in 2019 captured the CIF NorCal D3 title behind Stanford’s Nick Dugan. That also was as far as that team could go with no state championships in baseball.

In getting this D4 honor, Tomlin has become the first-ever girls basketball coach from the Humboldt-Del Norte region of the CIF North Coast Section to gain a statewide accolade in any division. The last one from the NCS in D4 was Trey Mitchell from Branson of Ross just two years ago. Before that, it was Dr. Rodney Faucett from St. Patrick-St. Vincent of Vallejo for 2008.

Last 14 honorees: 2023 Leonard Dominguez (Montebello Cantwell-Sacred Heart); 2022 Trey Mitchell (Ross Branson); 2021 Jerry Taylor (Fresno Roosevelt); 2020 Rick Berry (Cloverdale); 2019 LeRoy Hurt (Oakland Tech); 2018 Buck Matthews (Portola Valley Woodside Priory); 2017 Dawnesha Buckner (Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos); 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).

Nita Simpson (Oakland)

It would be easy dismiss Simpson as a coach of the year candidate for winning the D5 state title coming from a school that won it in D3 in 2019. She’s also a first-year coach and had the benefit this season of bringing in junior center Ojiugo Egeonu with her from her previous team at AIMS College Prep (also Oakland).

But in finding out more about her, there’s clearly more about Nita than just wins and losses or even CIF state titles. She began working with low-income kids in Oakland in 2012 as a coach and mentor. In 2019, her organization Battle Tested Kids became a non-profit and she has used the platform to change the lives of those in her program. Ojiugo and older brother, Ubadi, are just two of them. Ubadi was an all-state player just last year for D5 as a senior with a 23.7 ppg mark and Nita was coaching the boys teams at AIMS College Prep at the same time she was coaching the girls.

This year after moving over to Oakland High, Simpson wasn’t able to make up much ground on the leading team in the section/league at Oakland Tech, but despite being only a No. 13 seed and having to play on the road in Half Moon Bay, Roseville, Woodland and Hillsborough the Wildcats reached the CIF D5 state final. In that game, Egeonu got in foul trouble, but the Wildcats (23-10) hung tough and topped Montgomery of San Diego, 56-50.

Simpson is the first D5 state coach of the year from the East Bay since Julianne Berry of St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) in 2011. The coach of the Wildcats from 2019, Orlando Gray, was the D3 state coach of the year for that season. LeRoy Hurt of Oakland Tech was the D4 state coach of the year in 2019 as well and was considered as a finalist for overall State Coach of the Year last season behind Stan Delus of Etiwanda.

Last 14 honorees: 2023 Danny Roussel (Huntington Beach Marina); 2022 Ryan Coleman (Los Angeles Shalhevet); 2021 Joseph Murray (San Marcos St. Joseph Academy); 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).

Note: Coaches can be listed twice in a division because the second time they were honored as the overall State Coach of the Year.

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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2 Trackbacks

  1. […] days after being named CalHiSports Division-4 coach of the year, Tomlin can add the 2023/24 Humboldt Sports Girls Basketball Coach of the Year to his […]

  2. […] last month, Tomlin was named the CalHiSports Division IV Coach of the Year after he became the first coach in California to ever win a state championship in football, which […]

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