Pierce athletics, like those at many other junior colleges in the area, have been teetering on the financial chopping block for the past five years.
On Feb. 5, the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees voted to distribute 142 layoff notices to tenured professors, 39 who work in physical education. When full-time faculty are laid off, the California Education Code stipulates that no part-time personnel may be hired in the same discipline for three years. That rule may mean the end of part-time coaches in the district. Lessett is a part-time coach.
Last year, the board voted to eliminate positions for athletic trainers. Several times since 1980 it has considered eliminating competitive sports. The board maintained that athletics failed to generate revenue.
"Part of that is my fault, at least at Pierce," O'Connor said. "I was given a choice between fully funding four sports or partially funding 11. I chose the 11 because more athletes would get a chance to participate."
As a result, the Pierce basketball program is lacking financial support for some basic services and equipment common to most college programs:
Statistics are hard to keep without scorekeepers. Pierce has one; many schools have three.
Games are hard to follow without a scoreboard. The one at Pierce is old and works when it wants to work.
At some games, Pierce couldn't even provide towels for players.
The future seems dim, at best, for Lessett and his Brahmas. With the season coming to an end, Pierce hasn't a chance of making postseason play. You would never know that by listening to Lessett.
"I'm happy," he said. "Stephens left because he wasn't happy. Hughes left because he wasn't happy. I'm happy here, and I'm going to stay until we win a conference championship.
"It doesn't take a miracle," he said. "It takes a lot of work."
That's not to say Pierce wouldn't accept a miracle if one happened along.