Kenny Donovan replaces Tom Gregory at Ayala

An era is over at Ayala High School, and this time it appears to be for good.

Tom Gregory, who has coached the boys basketball team every year since the school opened in 1990 except for one (when he resigned for the year) has been dismissed as coach by principal Mike Vaughn and replaced by Kenny Donovan, who was the JV coach and previously had been a head coach at Diamond Ranch and Azusa.

That whole story can be read in Saturday’s paper.

But I wanted to address a couple of thoughts, not addressed in that story. One, should it have happened?

If it was about wins and losses, then definitely not. But Vaughn said it wasn’t about that and was about “different philosophies.” If that’s true, then I can’t say whether it should have happened. But it does help to have an administration and coach on the same page. Gregory mentioned that the “support system was different than what it was before.” I took that to mean that he didn’t feel like he had the administration’s support. It’s hard to coach without that support, especially in an environment like Ayala’s. It’s a shame it came to this, but maybe it was best for both parties. Although not necessarily best for the program and the kids.

Second, why did it happen?

Vaughn mentioned different philosophies, and maybe part of that is Vaughn’s vision for the school. “We need to ask ourselves what do we expect from our students,” Vaughn said. “If we set goals and they meet them, what do we do next? And if they’re not succeeding, then we need to think what we’re going to do to help them succeed.” Vaughn didn’t get real specific, but I could see how this vision could pertain to athletics. Maybe Vaughn felt Gregory wasn’t motivating in the right way, or helping those lesser players like he should. When I asked Vaughn if Gregory was on board with this philosophy, he said. “maybe he was slow to respond to it.”

Third, did parents have a role?

Possibly. It seems to be Vaughn’s decision, but if every parent had supported Gregory, I’d be surprised if Gregory had been dismissed. Gregory said, “I will say this, the support from the majority of the parents and all the players has been incredible.” Parents drove Gregory to step down seven years ago, then were the driving force to bring him back. I’d be surprised if they can get him back this time, especially with the current administration in charge.

Fourth, will Gregory coach again?

I get the impression he will. He wants to have a coaching avenue for his son Kyle, who has served as an assistant of his the last two years. And who knows, maybe it could be sooner rather than later. Gregory lives in Riverside so if he were to look at another coaching job, it would likely be between Chino Hills and Riverside. With about 20 years in the district, Gregory would take a big pay cut to teach elsewhere, but he might not have to worry about that because there won’t be any teaching jobs elsewhere for next year. There might be more off-campus coaches in all sports at all schools, including boys basketball next year, so that might work out OK for him. But, it has to be a school on board with his “old school” style.

Fifth, how will Kenny Donovan do?

It helps that many of the parents know him and he knows the school and the atmosphere there. Because it is a high-pressure job. The honeymoon will be short, to be sure. As Donovan said on Friday, “I said to the kids, ‘you have the easy job. Don’t worry. If we lose a game, it’s going to fall on me. You’re not going to get blamed.'” When Gregory stepped down before, Ayala went 12-17 that season, ending a string of 10 consecutive CIF quarterfinal appearances. When Gregory returned, Ayala went back to the quarterfinals. ‘I think he’ll be fine,” Gregory said of Donovan. “His approach and demeanor is much more of a fit for the school.”