UPDATE: Diamond Ranch vice principal and athletic director Candace Cayer contacted me via email with this response on James’ explanation that he was asked to resign: “As you know, I am unable to comment on a personnel matter. At this time, we are going in a different direction.” In addition, Cayer wrote they have not named a new coach and will fly the position in house. In other words, they’re hiring an on campus coach.
By Fred J. Robledo
One of the areas most highly regarded coaches, Diamond Ranch High School’s Mike James, said school officials gave him the option of resigning or being released in favoring of hiring an on-campus coach.
James, who teaches at nearby Walnut High School and who has led the Panthers to four CIF-Southern Section semifinals and three league titles during his six-year tenure, opted to resign this week.
Phones messages left for Diamond Ranch athletic director and vice principal Candace Cayer seeking an explanation were not returned.
“What it boils down to is that they want an on campus coach,” James said. “I’m really disappointed because I thought next year would be a really good year for us.
“We had all of our leaders coming back. It’s a strong group of kids … glue kids who work hard and do all the right things.”
James was not completely stunned by the decision. He says there is a teacher on campus who wants the job, but didn’t feel it was his position to mention his/her name.
He understands that in an ideal scenario, schools prefer an on campus coach, but he felt his resume and reputation as a coach should have allowed him to continue.
“I think they had the best of both worlds,” James said. “Obviously, you want to have someone that’s on campus, but if you don’t the next best thing is to have a credential teacher who is passionate and dedicated to the kids. I thought I was that.”
Bishop Amat girls basketball coach Richard Wiard is in a similar situation. Wiard is a teacher at Charter Oak High school, but has been a walk-on head coach at Bishop Amat for more than a decade, where he has won five CIF-Southern Section titles and two state titles.
Wiard has grown fond of James over the years, and was disappointed to learn what happened.
“You don’t find somebody better than Mike,” Wiard said. “You want what’s best for your kids, and I can’t believe they’ll find someone better. He’s dedicated to his kids, he’s been successful, and nobody’s ever had a bad word to say about him.
“I’ve done this a long time and what you want for your kids is the best possible coach and Mike James is the best coach for those kids.
“But who knows, maybe they have John Wooden on campus, I don’t know. But whoever it is, they’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill.”
James said he will not rush into another coaching position, but looks forward to the day he’s in charge again.
“I would be open to coaching next year, but I’m not going to just take any job,” James said. “I want to go somewhere where’s there’s a chance to build something to be successful.”
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ROBLEDO’S OPINION: If there is a high school athletic director looking for a girls basketball coach who has taken his team to the semifinals four straight years during a six-year tenure, which also included a quarterfinal appearance and three league titles, former Diamond Ranch girls basketball coach Mike James is your man.
In one of the most shocking, head-shaking administrative decisions I can remember, James said he was asked to resign his post as the Panthers’ girls basketball coach because school officials want to promote on on-campus coach. James, who is a teacher at Walnut High School, is not only one of the most respected basketball minds in the area, he’s one of the classiest, courteous, approachable and fair-minded individuals I’ve ever dealt with. He’s everything you want your high school coach to be, from his understanding and teaching of the game to being a role model and leader of young people, he checks off all the boxes a parent or administrator could want, yet he’s being asked to resign? It makes no sense. This is like asking Bishop Amat coach Richard Wiard, a walk on coach who teaches at Charter Oak, to resign to hire a teacher on campus? Think Amat would ever do that? Would anyone do that? Well, Diamond Ranch has and I just don’t get it. Sure, it’s nice to have an on-campus coach, but when you’ve got a tenured teacher the quality of James in control, you don’t let those kind get away. But what I do know is that people like Mike James won’t be on the open market very long. Diamond Ranch’s loss will be another team’s gain. You can take that to the bank.