Coach helped turn around struggling Blair program
By Scott Galetti, Staff Writer
PASADENA – Beginning a season as a new head coach is never an easy task, especially when it’s at a school that hasn’t had much success in recent seasons.
Blair High School girls basketball coach David Jensen entered the scene as a wide-eyed new coach for a Vikings squad that had gone 1-9 in the Rio Hondo League during the 2006-07 season.
With seniors Stephanie DeFrance, the Rio Hondo League MVP, and Melissa Fudge forming the nucleus, Jensen used his will to win and a positive attitude to mold Blair back into a winner.
His goal from the beginning was to win the Rio Hondo League championship, and his team delivered with a massive turnaround by finishing 20-6 and winning the league title with a 9-1 mark.
The Vikings even overcame a massive deficit in the opening round of the CIF-Southern Section Division II-A playoffs to earn a victory over a talented Marina team before being eliminated by Santa Monica in the second round.
Blair’s storybook season earned Jensen the right to be named the Star-News girls basketball Coach of the Year.
“He’s a good coach,” Fudge said. “He likes to work with the players and he’ll help you understand the plays.”
Jensen also understood the need for a positive attitude while coaching.
“He’s always in a good mood and if we’re down, he always told us that we could come back and win,” Fudge said.
Gaining the much-needed confidence was all Jensen believed was lacking, and he took it upon himself to develop a new mindset.
“My purpose is to help student athletes better their lives both on and off the court,” Jensen said. “They say it’s all about fun, but winning is the ultimate fun.
“I knew they had the skills but lacked the confidence, so if I could instill confidence in them, they would become winners.”
The Vikings seemed to come together as a unit after dropping a pair of close games at the Buckley Tournament in early December.
A 61-52 victory over Almont League champion Keppel just solidified the team’s belief that it could create something special.
“He brought us closer together and we learned a lot about each other,” Fudge said.
The players also learned that Jensen refused to let them give up on themselves.
“I just didn’t believe that any of us wanted to be associated with that behavior,” Jensen said. “There would be wins and losses, but giving up was not an option.”
The win over Keppel began a run of 10 consecutive victories for the Vikings on their home floor, and an improbable run in league.
“This is emotionally huge for us since the seniors who are now All-Area players are the same ones who had to suffer through a 1-29 league record over the last three years,” Jensen said. “Our original goal was just to have a winning season, just to be somewhat improved from last year. But each win was sweeter than the last as we all together started to believe it was actually going to be a playoff season and more and more we felt we actually deserved it.”
Jensen has more than 100 varsity high school victories (113-43) and five league championships, including four with Delphi Academy’s boys and girls teams. He’s been coaching club and travel teams for 15 years and played NCAA Division I basketball at Northeastern University.