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Prep sports: The new sheriffs in town

The upcoming high school season comes with several new coaches

Posted: July 26, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 26, 2012 1:55 a.m.

A new athletic season brings with it a fresh feeling.

It’s a chance for schools to start over.

For some teams, that will literally be the case.

Golden Valley, West Ranch and Canyon are all experiencing turnover at the varsity level for the upcoming 2012-13 season, and the new hires vary in experience and familiarity with the local sports scene.

Here is a list of all people entering their first years as heads of varsity programs:

Golden Valley

Cross Country/Track and Field

Marc Minasian has perhaps the biggest shoes to fill this season as he was hired earlier this month to take over Golden Valley’s boys and girls cross country teams, which included last year’s state champion boys cross country squad.

Brothers Rob and Chris Evans coached both cross country and track and field, but resigned at the end of the spring season.

Minasian, the former Oak Park High coach, will be the new face of cross country while the track and field teams will guided by John Quam.

For the past two seasons, Minasian has guided the Oak Park girls and boys cross country and track and field teams. The boys team took 11th at the CIF-Southern Section Division III championships last year and the track and field team sent multiple individual athletes to the state meet.

“They needed someone who could step into big shoes and I wasn’t intimidated by that,” Minasian said. “At the end of the day I’m not intimated by this game, and I’m not new to it. I’ve done this before.”

Prior to coaching at Oak Park, Minasian said he spent nearly 40 years coaching individual athletes in tennis, cycling and running.

He’ll also serve as an assistant under Quam for track and field season.

Quam was previously the school’s JV football coach and a track and field assistant under the Evans brothers. He’ll continue to coach JV football while also taking on co-athletic director duties this season along with Robert Fisher.

Girls basketball

Al VanHook is replacing interim coach Scott Sivley to become the seventh girls basketball head coach for a program entering its eighth year.

This will be the first varsity head coaching job for VanHook, a former boys varsity assistant at West Ranch and Saugus.

“It’s gone though tough times,” VanHook said of the team. “I’m coming in knowing that it’s going to be an uphill battle. We’re behind, but we have some talent here that can get some things done very quickly.”

VanHook spent last season assisting for the Saugus boys varsity team and the previous six years doing the same for West Ranch. He also had two brief assistant coaching stints at Canoga Park and Chatsworth highs

West Ranch

Girls volleyball

Gerrit Maxwell, a former Foothill League volleyball coach, was hired in the spring to replace Nate Sparks, the team’s head coach since 2007.

Sparks also took over the boys volleyball team that same season.

He’ll continue coaching the boys in the spring, athletic director Cassandra Perez confirmed.

On the girls side, between high school, college and club, Maxwell comes in with plenty of experience coaching at various levels of volleyball.

“I felt like the interview was more about building the community than anything else,” Maxwell said of the hiring process. “Obviously, they like the volleyball experience — my last job in high school being at Hart — and I did pretty well there.”

Though he is currently coaching at Legacy Volleyball Club, his last high school job was a one-year stint Hart in 2003.

He guided the Indians to a co-Foothill title that season.

Given his job as a physical education teacher at Rancho Pico Junior High across the street from West Ranch, he said he already has strong connections with the students and parents in the community.

Maxwell also served as a co-head coach of Santa Monica College in 2004, and before that, he was an assistant coach at Northern Arizona University, Pierce College and Harvard-Westlake High School.

Track and Field
West Ranch athletic director Cassandra Perez said the school is still looking for a replacement track and field head coach after Dave Saville’s resignation at the conclusion of the spring season.


Boys basketball

It was announced in late February that Sean DeLong will take over as Canyon’s boys basketball head coach after longtime head man Chad Phillips stepped down.

Phillips coached the team for 12 seasons, winning three Foothill League titles and a school-record 200 games along the way.

DeLong served as an assistant coach for the team since the 2005-06 season.

“I can’t come in and be Phillips, but I’m smart enough to know I’ve got to be me,” DeLong said. “I’m probably going to be a little more verbal in my intensity (than I have been).”

A 1995 graduate of Canyon, DeLong steps into his first varsity head coaching role this season.

Canyon comes in as defending league champions.

Boys soccer

Yet another coach stepping into a traditionally successful program is Lou Aguilera, who is taking the place of Khris Savage.

Under Savage the past seven seasons, the boys soccer team won three Foothill crowns in consecutive seasons from 2008-2010.

The team would have added another title this year were it not for a CIF violation involving an ineligible player on the field.

That forced the Cowboys to forfeit the majority of its wins during league play.

A few months later, in April, Savage was out and the school picked Aguilera, a former freshman boys soccer coach at Canyon.

“It was a little weird taking over,” said Aguilera, whose last involvement with the team was as a varsity assistant in 2010. “It was and it wasn’t because I know the program. I know what it’s about. The situation, yeah, was a little awkward.”

Even so, Aguilera said he has plans to carry over the program’s recent history of success, while avoiding any costly oversights.

Aguilera has 15 years of combined soccer coaching experience at the youth and high school level. This is his first varsity job.

Girls soccer

Derek Rusk will take the reins for the girls team after Andy Pringle’s two-year run with the team came to an end this past season.

Though the girls team hasn’t had the same tradition of prosperity as the boys team in recent years, Rusk has a close, personal connection with the school and is eager to boost the program’s reputation.

“My goal for the program is to make it something that the girls enjoy playing, enjoy being out there,” Rusk said. “And it wouldn’t hurt to win a few games on the way.”

Rusk is a Canyon alumnus and currently teaches math at the school.

He’s coached at the youth level before, but this will be his debut at the high school level.


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