There are five coaching changes in the Valley, none more significant than Greg Gano’s hire at Damien. From a pressure standpoint, Gano has the most difficult job of satisfying thirsty boosters, but from a personnel standpoint, Duarte’s Tip Sanders has the biggest challenge of winning games. Factoring both pressure and personnel, lets rank it with the toughest being number one.
1. Damien: After a 3-7 season coach Scott Morrison was fired and replaced by area legend Greg Gano, who won four CIF-SS championships at Los Altos after replacing another legend, Dwayne DeSpain. Thoughts: A difficult schedule, high profile and fans that want to win now. While other coaching situations seem more difficult on paper, few would want the pressure that Gano is taking on. It almost seems like he risks his reputation and legacy if this fails, but that’s a challenge Gano enjoys.
2. Wilson: Longtime Northview assistant Brian Zavala takes over for Greg Hoyd, who lasted just one season after a 1-9 campaign and a difficult relationship with the school administration and boosters. Thoughts: This is a tough mess Zavala has to clean up. He seems like a solid guy and a great coach, but the Miramonte League is so unforgiving that he virtually has no chance of reaching the playoffs, especially after the departure of Tim Gilmore. If they finish 6-4 or better, he would have to be considered for coach of the year honors.
3. Duarte: Coach Wardell Crutchfield was fired because the school “wanted to move in a different direction,” and a lot of players have gone is a different direction as well, leaving new coach Tip Sanders trying to fill out his roster. Sanders’ coaching resume is impressive having restored programs at Marshall and Blair, but this project is off to a slow start. Thoughts: Let’s just say the administration didn’t think this all out when they fired Crutchfield. The school’s best impact players left, including running back Jordan Canada, now at South Hills. Sanders has performed miracles before, and could even find a way to compete in the Montview, but this was an uphill battle from the start.
4. South El Monte: Longtime coach Erick Escamilla stepped away to spend more time with his family, and the school hired Ray Hernandez after he resigned from La Puente. Hernandez is a good coach, and most are hoping the change of venue will work to everyone’s advantage. Thoughts: Always tough when you replace a coach that is so well respected and whose teams competed year in and year out. Hernandez moves up in terms of going from the Montview to the Mission Valley, but with Arroyo and Rosemead still the perennial favorites, a playoff spot isn’t guaranteed.
5. La Puente: A year after winning the Montview League title, coach Ray Hernandez finished 1-9 and left the program during the season over a disagreement with the school’s administration on how to discipline players. Glendora assistant Branden Roher, already a teacher at the school, took over and everything we hear is that he’s doing a wonderful job. Thoughts: The Montview league is wide open and Roher is doing so well bringing the boys along that they could compete for a title his first season. There is no pressure because there are no expectations, the perfect situation for a first-year coach.