I had a chance to speak with Damien coach Greg Gano after opening spring practice on Monday. Here is what he said about the challenge of taking over a 3-7 team.
“It was a great first day. We had about 130 kids who were all enthused and ready to go. Everyone wants to know what team we’re going to have, but it’s way too early to tell. The most important thing is getting everyone comfortable with the coaching staff and buying into what we want to do. From that standpoint, we’re off to a good start.”
Gano’s top assistants at Los Altos, Lee Fair and John Howing, both moved to Damien with Gano, who got another gem when former Monrovia high school coach Steve Garrison joined his staff as well. Garrison took the year off after resigning at Monrovia, where he took the Wildcats to three CIF-SS divisional finals in the 1990s.
“Steve fits in perfectly, and he brings a lot of enthusiasm to the table,” Gano said.
Wilson athletic director Dave Merrill also is joining Gano’s staff. Not bad for a first impression.
“You have to surround yourself with quality coaches and quality people,” Gano said. “Kids aren’t stupid. They hear things and they read things. Hopefully we have that type of staff that they respect and want to play for.”
Junior James Guillen is still playing baseball, but he returns at quarterback after throwing for 1,319 yards and ten touchdowns. Running back Phillip Sainz returns too, but the biggest change will come in how Gano utilizes his players, particularly younger players that will challenge upper-classmen for starting spots.
“I don’t know if we have that super player, but we have a lot of good football players that if you blend them together right, we could have something,” Gano said. “I think the biggest difference is that we’re not going to platoon as many players as in the past. We’re going to have kids playing both ways. I come from the old school, your best kids have to be on the field.”
He also talked about a nonleague schedule that includes Bishop Amat, Charter Oak, Rancho Cucamonga and St. John Bosco.
“The biggest difference from starting at Los Altos and starting at Damien is the schedule,” Gano said. “Rancho is one of the best teams in the state, and everyone else we play are great football teams too. It’s a challenge, it really is, but that’s why I came here, to take it on.”