In mid-season, with another powerful state title contender set in motion, El Camino College basketball Coach Paul Landreaux has stunned his colleagues by taking a leave from coaching to pursue "some other goals I want to accomplish."
Landreaux, who has won two state community college titles and been in the finals three times in six years, will continue to teach at El Camino and, despite rumors to the contrary, said he will return to coaching at El Camino. "I'm the coach, I'll sure be back. It's my job," he said when reached at home during Christmas vacation.
The school's only statement was that Landreaux asked to temporarily leave his coaching duties for personal reasons. Landreaux is said to be maintaining an advisory capacity.
Landreaux said, "I just need some time. . . . I had some other goals, some other things I want to do, and this was the only time I could do it." He would not elaborate.
Landreaux may be the state's most successful active junior college coach, and he is considered a national authority on the zone defense. He has written a book on his tenacious approach to defense and speaks at coaching clinics and addresses collegiate teams at the request of coaches. However, he has been unsuccessful in landing a job at a four-year school despite seeking one the last two years.
One associate said his impression is that Landreaux may be tiring of the situation at El Camino--and frustrated by his inability to move up--and is taking some time to assess his future. The source said Landreaux may be considering a move outside of coaching.
Two of the more precocious high school basketball players in the area faced off last Friday in the semifinals of the Torrance Christmas Classic when 5-6 Westchester freshman Sam Crawford and 5-8 St. Monica freshman Alex Mendenhall were on the floor.
Mendenhall starts but Crawford, Westchester's first guard off the bench, got the better of their match-up Friday, outscoring the St. Monican, 4-0, and running the fast break to perfection. In fact, Crawford was so cool and effective that college coaches were shaking their heads in disbelief. "Look at that," one coach said as the ninth-grader whipped a no-look pass into the pivot. "I just hope he grows."
Crawford added to his admirers in Saturday night's 62-54 tournament championship over Palos Verdes when he scored 11 points, including a half-court shot at the buzzer.
The season's high school football all-stars and All-Americans and MVPs and players of the year are being named daily but those lists don't answer the tantalizing question of which running back actually carries the ball most swiftly.
The "Football 60-Yard Dash" in the Jan. 17 Sunkist Track Meet will go a long way toward answering that when several of the Southland's fastest players line up in the Sports Arena. The field will feature San Pedro senior Michael Ford and Carson junior Calvin Holmes, both track standouts in the Marine League.
The competition will also include J. J. Flanagan of Pomona, Ricky Ervins of Muir, Gary Wellman of Westlake, Anthony Burnett of Lynwood and Terry Rodgers of San Diego Sweetwater, the son of former Nebraska Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers. Wellman is the early favorite, based on his best of 10.56 in 100 meters last year, when he placed seventh in the state. Ford has run a 10.55 wind-aided 100, 10.9 without wind. Flanagan has run 10.8.
Serra High graduate Dwan Hurt had what Gonzaga University basketball Coach Dan Fitzgerald called "what may have been his best game in a Gonzaga uniform" recently when he led the Bulldogs to a 72-61 victory over Idaho. The senior point guard, who lost his starting job at the start of the season, came off the bench to lead the team in scoring with 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting, and he committed only one turnover in 26 minutes.
"He gave us a real spark during a stretch that really won it for us," Fitzgerald said. The game marked the first time Hurt had ever led Gonzaga in scoring, and the 14 points was one short of his career high. He went into the game averaging less than five points.