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HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL PREVIEWS : Trading Places : Ex-Kennedy Star Toya Holiday Returns as Coach of City's Premier Girls Program

December 03, 1987|STEVE ELLING | Times Staff Writer

It is hard to believe that someone with the infectious grin of Toya Holiday could be remembered for something so uncharacteristic.

Craig Raub still jokingly refers to it as "The Stare."

"She was playing in a game during her senior season," said Raub, who retired as the girls basketball coach at Kennedy High after last season. "And the ref calls a technical foul on somebody. So I'm thinking, 'Who popped off, who said something to the guy?'

"I asked the ref to tell me exactly who said what, and he says, 'Nobody said anything, coach. It was just the way she looked at me.' "

That was in 1981, when Holiday was a senior forward named Toya DeCree. Raub calls her one of the best players in school history, and the evidence certainly supports his claim.

She was a two-time All-City Section selection. At Arizona State, she was the Pacific 10 player of the year in 1982. She later was drafted by a now-defunct women's professional league. A 5-foot, 10-inch forward, Holiday had the kind of inside game and outside touch that made college recruiters drool. Her former coach knows the feeling.

"She went farther than any player that ever came out of the Valley," Raub said. "Toya could do it all. She's one of the best I've ever seen."

Six years later, after marrying and earning a bachelor's degree, Holiday fills another description--Coach.

Her maiden name has changed, but the intensity remains. That's fortunate, because Holiday will need every ounce of drive she can muster--one of the Valley's best players is taking over for the Valley's most successful girls coach.

In nine seasons, Raub coached Kennedy to nine Valley 4-A League titles and three City Section 4-A titles--including the past two. Kennedy reached the City final in five of the past six seasons and won 90 consecutive league games, a streak that is still intact.

Citing basketball burnout, Raub, 35, announced he was leaving the girls program to become an assistant with the football team.

"I guess there were too many times I walked across the campus at 7:30 at night after everybody else was gone," Raub said. "I started to wonder what the heck I was still doing it for."

Raub already had Holiday in mind and contacted her before last season ended.

"I told her to give it serious thought," he said, "because I was outta there."

Raub's fast break probably won't make for an easy transition, since Holiday's only previous coaching experience was a junior high summer-league team. Holiday has been left to stare at the void left by a big reputation.

"It seems like every time I go to a game somebody will ask, 'Where's Craig,' " she said with a laugh. "They know I'm the coach but they think he's still in charge. We even have a teacher here that sends my messages over to Coach Raub, because she tells the callers that it's Coach Raub that's in charge.

"A lot of people just haven't got the hang of it that I'm in charge right now."

Holiday has learned that what came naturally to her on the court isn't necessarily easy to explain to players.

"I'm learning that it's not as easy as people think," she said. "It's not as easy to say, 'This is the way it's done.' I never had to tell anybody, 'Don't shoot that way, you have to do it this way.' ".

She'll handle the team by herself, too. Raub says he will do advance scouting for the team and answer any questions she has, but he won't attend games.

"She has to learn and learn in a hurry," he said. "She doesn't need me around as a distraction."

She has other distractions with which to deal.

Because her youngest sister, Diane, played last season, Holiday knew several of the players before the season started. That made for some interesting moments when she first took over.

"When she first started I guess we thought she'd be a pushover," said senior Tisa Rush, a Times All-Valley and All-State guard. "She had to let us know she was serious. She has no favorites. She said not to try anything because 'I was a player and I know all the tricks.' "

Because Holiday, 23, is close to the players in age, she counsels them on personal matters they might not discuss with parents or older teachers.

"It's a little easier to talk to her about girl things," Rush said.

At times, though, Holiday says her age can be a mixed blessing.

"That was probably the hardest part about taking over," she said. "Like with Tisa. She's a close family friend, and she's like a little sister since she hangs out with Diane. I can't treat her any differently."

Players discovered it unwise to try her patience.

"A lot of them tried to push me, to test me," she said. "You know, coming to practice with the attitude that they don't want to run. They put me through the wringer," she said.

Other aspects of the job--like filling water bottles, sweeping the hardwood, collecting towels, setting up the shot clock or finding someone to keep statistics--have had her wringing her hands at times.

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