Breaking News: Northview hires Eric Johnson to take over boys basketball program after 41 years of Ron Rice

By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
Northview High School issued a press release on Tuesday crafted by the “Northview administrative team” to announce that the school promoted junior varsity boys basketball coach Eric Johnson to take over the Vikings varsity program, succeeding legendary coach Ron Rice, who retired after 41 years and who started teaching at Northview in 1969.
The letter was released by athletic director David Ochoa, who along with principal Dr. Josie Paredes, made the decision.
Johnson graduated from Northview in 2007 and competed for San Francisco State University. Most recently, he has been the junior varsity coach the past two seasons. Johnson is not a full-time teacher, he’s a substitute working on his teaching certification.
It was a surprising decision considering Ron Rice’s son Brian Rice, his top assistant for more than a decade and the head of the social studies department at Northview, also had applied to succeed his father and continue the Rice legacy at the school.
Those were also Ron Rice’s sentiments, who admitted his disappointment last week when Ochoa confirmed the school had decided not to promote Brian Rice because of philosophical differences, a decision that Ochoa and Paredes, a first-year principal at the school, agreed on.
It is not known whether Brian Rice will challenge the decision citing the 1997 Rialto ruling by the California State Supreme Court, which determined that if a qualified candidate who works in the district applies for a coaching position, they’re entitled to a hiring preference over non-teachers.
The 4-3 decision by the court ruled school districts can decide its own standards, but must hire any teacher who meets those standards.
In any case, Ochoa stands by the school’s decision.
“I’ve been here 24 years and I’m behind her (Paredes) decision,” Ochoa said last week. “I think she’s a good person, and it wasn’t an easy decision for her, but it’s her decision. There’s just a difference in philosophy.”
It was a decision that didn’t sit well with Ron Rice, whose relationship with the school is strained after four decades in charge.
“Mark Sims, the principal before (Paredes), said it was cut and dry Brian would be the coach when I left,” Ron Rice said. “Those were his wishes. He told me to coach as long as I liked and when you’re ready to make the switch, make the switch. It always seemed like the natural thing to do. He’s here, he teaches here and he’s been doing this with me for a long time.
“After 44 great years, to have this (decision) in my mind tarnishes it a bit.
Ochoa and Paredes have chose not to explain the reason for passing over Brian Rice, a teacher at the school, in favor of a walk-on coach.
But the principal and athletic director showed confidence in its new leader through its press release.
“Eric will bring an energetic and enthusiastic approach to our basketball program,” the statement read. “It is Eric’s vision to help student athletes to be successful both on the court and in the classroom. We are extremely excited for Eric Johnson to be named as the new head coach and take over the Northview Basketball Program.”

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  • it would appear to me the is something deeper (maybe even documented) that goes deeper than “philosophical differences”. This appears to be in direct oppositioñ to the Rialto Ruling from the early ’90s. Doesn’t it?

    The Rialto Rule, as I understand it, says a coaching job must go to a qualified certificated teacher before an off-campus coach. If the district does not want to hire the teacher that applies for the job i would think they need to have something that would deem them unqualified for the position?

    This might not be over if you remember the Ayala fiasco a few years back. Speaking of which….

    • I was thinking the same thing, but I’m not sure Brian Rice is going to pursue it. I think the Rice family is ready to move on. But from a practical perspective, you’re absolutely right, in almost all of these situations, the school leans toward the candidate who is a certified teacher at the school.

      I’ve said it’s a strange decision from day one, one that Northview will not explain. Northview went out of its way not to promote Brian. It apparently had offered the position to a San Dimas girls assistant coach (who I will not name) last week, and was turned down.

      So over the weekend it moved on to its next choice, who graduated there and was the JV coach.

      I’m sure Eric will do a fine job, but I still find the decision baffling.

      • For those wondering what the Rialto Ruling is, here’s a story than ran in the Associated Press.

        Byline: Bob Egelko Associated Press

        Public schoolteachers who want to be athletic coaches are entitled to a hiring preference under California law, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

        In a 4-3 decision, the court said that while school districts can
        decide their own standards for coaches, they must hire any teacher who
        meets those standards. Only if no qualified teachers apply can
        nonteachers be considered, the court said.

        In a case from San Bernardino County,
        the court relied on a 1977 law that said vacant coaching jobs “shall
        first be made available to teachers presently employed by the

        Lawyers for local school boards argued that the law
        merely requires them to notify teachers of coaching vacancies so that
        they can compete equally with nonteachers. That interpretation gives
        districts the freedom they need to hire the best qualified coaches, the
        boards said.

        But the court said the law was intended to give
        teachers “an advantage in the hiring process” if they met the
        district’s standards for coaches.

        That doesn’t mean any
        credentialed teacher who knows the rules of football is entitled to
        coach the varsity, said the opinion by Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar.
        She said districts have broad leeway in setting standards and judging

        For example, she said, an applicant’s knowledge of
        “coaching techniques,” one of the criteria in the law, can include
        “an evaluation of whether he or she has demonstrated an ability to instill commitment,
        discipline and teamwork in a group of young people of perhaps widely
        varying athletic ability, socioeconomic background or language skills.”

        Likewise, Werdegar said, a school district can decide how much
        emphasis to place on winning, academics, athletic participation by all
        students and equal participation by boys and girls.
        But she said the Legislature “intended schools, whenever possible, to
        hire qualified coaches who already possess the skills of a teacher.”

        Dissenting Justice Ming Chin said the ruling “shortchanges our public
        school students” by denying them “the best available coaches.” He
        said the law should be interpreted to require only that teachers be
        notified of coaching vacancies, and called on the Legislature to clarify
        the issue.

        The case involved two assistant basketball coaching jobs in 1992 at the newly opened Rialto High School in the Rialto Unified School District.
        Gary Stanley, a junior high school teacher, applied for both jobs and
        was interviewed for one but rejected. The district hired nonteachers for

        Superior Court Judge A. Rex Victor’s ruling in the district’s favor was overturned by a state appellate court,
        which said Stanley, as the only teacher who applied, was entitled to
        either job. The Supreme Court disagreed but said Stanley was entitled to
        consideration under standards set by the district.

        COPYRIGHT 1997 Daily News

        No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.

        Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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        Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
        Date:Jan 3, 1997

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  • bossman

    WOW!!!! What a joke. Northview is done in the Valley Vista now for sure. Rice isn’t going to sit around and let this happen. I Sure football at Northview will benefit from this. I bet Rice picks up his whistle and and hits the turf with Perez now.

  • fb102

    Paging Michael Manzo, Paging Michael Manzo……Time to call Brian Rice and make him your Boys head basketball coach.

    Time to get a coach for the Amat Boys program that can take the team out of the downward spiral it’s been in for years. One decent season in the water downed lower division playoffs does/should NOT cut it.

  • Reading Comprehension

    Since when do we advocate Nepotism. For all the wins Ron Rice accumulated, I also recall several embarrassing incidence with officials, and his on court demeanor as abrasive and demeaning. I believe that is the culture shift the school is looking towards. THe son will pay for the sins of the father.

    • What a silly statement, ever sat behind the bench of the great Mike LeDuc at Glendora, he can certainly get in your face. Ever watched Bonita’s Greg Eckler, he can be rather vocal. You wouldn’t want a tape recorder running when he’s shouting. All the great ones that I’ve been around over the years, Pasadena’s Tim Tucker, La Canada’s Tom Hofman, Keppel’s Huong Dong and so many more all rip into officials from time to time and lose it, that’s the culture of basketball coaches. If that’s what you want to get rid of, because Rice is no different than then names I mentioned, then you might as well get rid of them all.

      Abrasive and demeaning? What rock have you been hiding under?