Top 10 jobs by local college coaches

As always it was a banner year for local college programs. None won a national title but there were many in the running. Today’s countdown, the top 10 coaching jobs of the school year. Heavy emphasis placed on teams that won conference titles or were close.

10. Kristin Dowling, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s basketball

Gets major props for how far her team came in the course of a season. She got the job so late admissions were closed so she was left with whatever players remained. She had to get a tennis player and another who had never played before just to round out a roster of eight. The Athenas lost a lot of games early but were competitive by the end of the season. Can’t imagine how well she will do given a full year and chance to recruit.

9. Kristen Hauge, San Bernardino Valley College women’s soccer

The Wolverines (14-3-5) regained their Foothill Conference title and did so with a freshmen-laden roster. Some of the sophomores she did have, were ones with limited experience. Some minor injuries along the way also proved problematic but the Wolverines made their usual run deep into the playoffs. She also plays a difficult schedule and does a wonderful job of moving players on to the next level.

8. Bill Mierzwik, San Bernardino Valley College baseball

The Wolverines won their first Foothill Conference title since 2004 and they did it without a Pitcher of the Year or Player of the Year as those went to athletes from other schools. He might have been higher on the list it weren’t for a quicker than expected departure from the playoffs.

7. Chris Krich, University of La Verne football

The Leopards went 4-5, which was a repeat of the previous season. But it was a much better looking and more competitive 4-5. Let’s not forget how bad this program was when he took over three years ago. Numbers were down, interest was down. This should be the year the Leopards really turn the corner and make a significant impact.

6. Ben Cooper, Chaffey College men’s soccer

The Panthers went 16-5-2 overall, won the Foothill Conference and won three playoff games before falling to favored Golden West 3-1. The Panthers did it without a what you would call a “dominant” player. This is definitely a program on the rise.

5. Greg Kamansky, Cal Poly Pomona men’s basketball

Another one that is going to be on the list every year. The Broncos (28-3) won what is one of the toughest conferences in the country by a whopping four games and they advanced to the West Regional semifinal. Kamansky did it with two experienced players in Mitchel Anderson and Terrence Drisdom. After that, Kamansky had a bunch of unproven role players. Yet the beat goes on for the Broncos.

4. Frank Pericolosi, Pomona-Pitzer baseball

The Sagehens (29-16) finished second in the SCIAC to Cal Lutheran and were given at at-large berth in the NCAA Division III regional. We have come to expect good things from the Sagehens because they have always delivered. But this year’s team  exceeded expectations. Pericolosi lost three pitchers and a catcher for a good portion of the year with injuries. One of the pitchers also plays first so it was like losing two players. Let’s not forget the high academic standards which  can make it tough to contend. Bonus points for playing a strong schedule that included three games against No. 1 Linfield (Ore.)

3. Laurie Nevarez, University of Redlands softball

The Bulldogs lost their All-American and career home run leader Amanda Lievanos to a knee injury before the season started and they didn’t have an experienced pitcher after workhorse Kayla Uphold. Still the Bulldogs won a ninth straight SCIAC title and came within one game of playing for the regional final and their 36 wins equals a program record.

2. Kim Cherniss, Cal State San Bernardino volleyball

Yes, she could collect a Coach of the Year honor pretty much every year. But this year was one of her best jobs. Maybe the Coyotes didn’t make it to nationals like they had done the previous four seasons but they did make it to the West region final, despite having graduated seven seniors. So this year’s run came with a senior setter and a boatload of freshmen yet the still won the CCAA by three games. If someone else didn’t win this year, they may never win. An absolute travesty that a coach with a sub-.500 record got Coach of the Year honors this season in the CCAA

1. Jeff Klein, Chaffey College men’s basketball

The Panthers (27-7) had the best season in school history, making it all the way to the state title game before falling to Mt. SAC 102-88. Most impressive was an 87-85 win over previously unbeaten San Francisco in the state semifinal. The Panthers had a solid, united core of sophomores that were the foundation for that success. They played hard, they played together, played with poise and were not in awe of their surroundings no matter what the situation. That’s a reflection of the coach and his staff.

Jeff Klein


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Top 10 athletes I’m going to miss

The college season is about done. It’s always fun to go back and think about who did what to make it a memorable school year.

So I’m going to kick out a series of lists, just for amusement. Today it’s the top 10 athletes I’m going to miss covering – I’m talking seniors at four-year schools or sophomores finishing up at a local community college.

Got to start at 10 and work my way up . . . build the suspense. Hopefully those not making the cut won’t be offended. I truly enjoy what I do, every game I cover (that doesn’t go overtime) and every athlete I meet.

10. Annie Lydens, Pomona-Pitzer track/cross country

The last two years have been tough on her (injuries). But she was the subject of a feature her sophomore year. She has interned at the United Nations and her goal is to visit another different country for every year she has been alive. That tells you all you need to know. Nice to see great athletes with such a different perspective. Every interview with a Pomona-Pitzer athlete is an enlightening one.

9. Sarah Beeman, University or Redlands softball

A great player who finally got through a season injury-free and had impressive numbers to show for it. Bonus points for saving me from getting drowned by a celebratory water bucket a few years ago when the Bulldogs won the SCIAC Tournament. Coach Laurie Nevarez was the intended target.

8. Jordan Richard, Cal State Los Angeles basketball

So he doesn’t “play” for a local school. He qualifies as a local because he went to Los Osos and played at CS San Bernardino as a freshman, Riverside as a sophomore. And he played many a game against Cal State and Cal Poly. His game improved each year he ended up being the top shot blocker in the country this season. That’s a good way to go out.

7. Stacey Howard, San Bernardino Valley football

He made just some ridiculous catches this year for the Wolverines. Don’t know how opponents left him so open sometimes, especially on the halfback option. He was the subject for my season preview story and it’s always nice when those guys deliver. Almost makes it seem like I know what I’m doing. (Headed to University of Hawaii).

6. Luke Sweeney, Pomona-Pitzer football

Some times guys pile up lofty statistics against garbage teams or they just because they get a ton of carries but Sweeney is legit. He’s pretty small by running back standards and took a beating. Injuries really limited him last season but he still became the school’s all-time leading rusher. I have to wonder what numbers he would have put up with more talent around him.

5. Jordan Garcia, University of Redlands football

Not a big guy by any stretch but had a nose for the football and always seemed to come up with the big play on defense. Also the only athlete to ever email me and thank me for a story after the interview and before it was even published.

4. Camille Smith, Cal State San Bernardino volleyball

The latest in a line of great Coyote standouts and maybe the MOST interviewed player on the list because of the team’s high profile and her major role in her time there. She’s tough, real tough. And she has always been quite articulate, win or lose. Bonus points for always keeping us guessing what color her hair was going to be next.

3. Sango Niang, Chaffey College basketball

The reason he makes the list is because I can’t remember the last time I saw a player improve so much from one season to the next. Sango excelled in track growing up. That comes from his father being an Olympian. He barely played basketball in high school. He was good as a freshman, phenomenal the past season. He’s small and quick but absolutely fearless. (He’s headed to Division II Simon Fraser next year).

2. Mitchel Anderson, Cal Poly Pomona basketball

He won a national championship with the Broncos in 2010 as a freshman. That is indicative enough of his talent. He’s just a smooth, consistent player. He may not be flashy but by the end of the night he is going to have his 15 pts, 8 rebs, 5 assists and a couple of steals.

1. Kwame Alexander, Cal State San Bernardino basketball

This was an easy choice. Who doesn’t like rim-rattling dunks? Kwame had some of the most ferocious ones I have seen at any level. Go ahead, Google him and check out the dunks on You Tube. Definitely the most exciting player to come along in the CCAA in the last decade.

Kwame Alexander vs. Chico State

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Chaffey men looking for redemption

The No. 4 Chaffey College men’s basketball team gets a chance for redemption tonight when it travels to No. 1 Saddleback (27-4) for a playoff game in which the winner advances to the state Final Four next week in Sacramento.

The Panthers (25-6) have lost to Saddleback twice on last second shots in the Jeff Klein tenure, although the playoff format was different then and those games were to get the Panthers to the Elite Eight.

This might be the best team Klein has had. Ask a coach and they’re always hesitant to compare teams. It’s like asking a coach to picking a favorite child.

But this team has a poise and air of confidence about it others have not.  The players don’t seemed overwhelmed by the playoff atmosphere and most have played together for two years, and many for three.

Klein also is blessed with depth. He uses a lot of guys and they all contribute. There isn’t much waste at the end of the bench.

Justin Long might be the best long distance shooter in the state and Sango Niang, a track standout turned very good basketball player, is a terrific catalyst on both sides of the ball. He’s like the Energizer Bunny. He never stops!

There are also solid veteran players in Ryan Nitz, Kenny Morgan and Justin Cole who don’t mind taking a backseat to the more heralded players.

The Panthers played a tough non-conference schedule and benefited from playing in tough Foothill Conference which has prepared them nicely for a playoff run.

The fact that two teams from the conference are still alive says a lot – No. 10 San Bernardino Valley College (22-8) will play No. 3 Mt. SAC (26-3) in what should be another quality playoff game.

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