Who wants to speak next? Charlie Brande, coach of the girls' volleyball team at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach and the Orange County Volleyball Club, is the topic, and everyone has an opinion on him, right?
Some descriptions that have been applied to him: A winner. Overbearing. Enthusiastic. Too enthusiastic. One of the best coaches in developing talent. One of the worst coaches to play for. A coach who leads through respect. A coach who leads through fear.
The catch-all description? Controversial.
The Charlie Brande who guided Corona del Mar to a second-place finish in the Southern Section 5-A class and has the Sea Kings in the state Division I playoffs, starting with tonight's match at Highland High of Bakersfield, is the same Charlie Brande who was fired by the school in September of 1986, after the Newport-Mesa School District received three letters accusing him of physically abusing players, a charge he denied. And the same Charlie Brande who got an outpouring of support from friends, players and parents after his dismissal. And the same Charlie Brande who was nicknamed Mr. Rant and Rave. And the same Charlie Brande who was rehired at Corona del Mar in June of 1987.
"Real tough," said Brande, a former assistant at UCLA and the University of Hawaii, in describing himself a few years ago. That description hasn't changed.
"I make practice tougher on them than any situation they'll ever come across in a game. That's the secret. Mental toughness."
Brande does not have smoke coming out of his ears. In fact, he can be friendly and outgoing, smiling even after a heart-breaking loss. After one such defeat against Newport Harbor, his former team, in the Southern Section final Nov. 14, he talked afterward of preferring not to meet the Sailors again in the state playoffs. Too many friends on the other side of the net.
"It's very hard for me to coach against my old players," said Brande, who led Newport Harbor to boys' and girls' 4-A titles in 1979 and has worked with many current Sailor players at the Orange County Volleyball Club. "Half the Newport team, I'm closer to them than many of the players on my own team."
Said Newport Harbor star Jenny Evans, who has played for Brande in club competition for six years and developed into one of the premier high school players in the country: "Charlie is an excellent coach. It depends on the players. He puts his whole heart into it. He knows how to make people winners."
The most emotional coach around?
"By far," Evans said.
But is so much emotion, much of it negative, good in high school?
"It's good, I think," Evans said. "You can tell he wants to win, and the players feel the same way."
They do keep coming back, don't they?
And so, too, does Charlie Brande. From being fired to the state playoffs in a little more than a year.
The Tournament of Champions, long the center of attention of local early season basketball invitationals, will be sharing the spotlight this year.
The first W.A. Goodman-Los Angeles Invitational, Dec. 15-19 at Cal State Los Angeles, will conflict with the 16th annual TOC, Dec. 14-19 at Cal Poly Pomona, on the calendar and on the court.
The L.A. Invitational has some teams the TOC would surely like to have, including Crenshaw with John Staggers, Doug Meekins and Cornelius Holden; Long Beach St. Anthony with Darrick Martin, Pasadena Muir with Wayne Womack, defending Southern Section 4-A champion Santa Monica, and 5-A semifinalists Lakewood and St. Monica of Santa Monica.
The TOC, meanwhile, has another solid lineup, this year featuring Fresno Edison, Westchester, Gardena Serra with James Moses, and Diamond Bar with Brian Hendrick. Edison has its three top players back from the team that beat Granada Hills in the first round of the state Division I playoffs and then lost to eventual champion Santa Ana Mater Dei, 63-62, in the Southern California Regional semifinals at Cal State Fullerton.
The girls' Tournament of Champions, which usually offers one of the strongest fields, has four of the top five teams in California, two teams from out of state and one from out of the country. The competition will begin Dec. 19 and, after a two-day break, continue Dec. 21-23 at Santa Barbara High.
Brea-Olinda, Inglewood Morningside, Pasadena Muir and Santa Barbara head the local entrants. Reno, the two-time defending Nevada 3-A champion and the third-place finisher in the TOC last year, Doss of Louisville, Ky., and St. Patrick's of Sarnia, Canada, are the true visiting teams.
Glyn Milburn of Santa Monica set the Southern Section single-season touchdown record Friday in the Vikings' 28-0 first-round Southern Conference playoff win over Compton Dominguez, scoring all four touchdowns to bring his total to 37.