A year after he ended his 10-season tenure at Hacienda Heights Los Altos High School, Greg Gano was hired as the Damien High School head football coach on Tuesday.
The replacement for Scott Morrison, who compiled a 32-33-1 record at Damien, won four CIF-SS championships in 10 years at Los Altos. Morrison, who won two Sierra League titles in six years, was fired after a 3-7 season this year.
The last time he accepted a head coaching job, Gano replaced Dwayne DeSpain, who won seven CIF titles at Los Altos.
“When I took over for Dwayne they said `You’re nuts,”‘ Gano said. “If I can follow a legend, the coach of the century, there’s not much more pressure than that.
“I know what we have to do here and we’ve got a solid foundation.”
Damien principal, Father Patrick Travers, said there were three finalists for the job but one pulled out, leaving Gano and former Chino head coach John Monger. Monger made four trips to the CIF finals from 1997-2001 and won a title in 1997 at Chino and 1979 at Don Lugo. Damien contacted Gano, who stepped down at Los Altos after the 2007 season, only after he expressed interest in the job via a newspaper story.
“It was an extremely difficult decision,” Travers said. “Both of them wanted it, but we had to go with one. John hung in there until the end.”
Gano, who will also teach at Damien beginning in September, is yet to speak with any incumbent assistant coaches about retention.
He has named four assistants from outside the program, including two who coached with him at Los Altos, and the former head coaches at Hacienda Heights Wilson and Monrovia.
The 2009 schedule awaiting Damien includes two teams crowned CIF champions Friday night: Central Division champ Rancho Cucamonga and Southeast Division champ Charter Oak. Also on Damien’s 2009 slate are Bellflower St. John Bosco, which defeated it 34-0 on Sept. 12, La Puente Bishop Amat, 47-24 winners over the Spartans Sept. 29, and Claremont, the lone nonleague foe to fall to Damien in 2008.
Travers expressed hope that the reputation Gano built in the San Gabriel Valley would attract players from the area to Damien as well as players from the Inland Valley and further east.
“We don’t recruit but your program has to be attractive,” Travers said. “Unfortunately, your program comes down to wins and losses. We hope people from the east end will be knowledgeable enough to check out who (Gano) is and be interested in coming.”