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NOTEBOOK : Fremont's Taylor Coaches in No One's Shadow

June 20, 1993|KIRBY LEE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Mat Taylor humorously proclaims himself as "The White Shadow" at Fremont High in reference to the '70s television series about a white basketball coach at a predominantly black inner-city school.

He did little to dispel that image against Banning in a June 12 first-round girls' basketball game at the L.A. Watts Summer Games.

The Manhattan Beach resident showed up in a suit and tie in a sweltering Locke High gymnasium where shorts and tank tops were de rigueur . Eight members of the team had to cram into Taylor's '79 Volvo sedan to make it to the game. "This was nothing," Taylor said. "Our record is 11. We had them sticking out of the sunroof."

Such is the life of Taylor, 40, a 1971 Aviation High graduate. Taylor served as a varsity assistant at Rolling Hills under Matt Dodson in 1983 and '84 while working on his teaching credential at Cal State Long Beach.

In Taylor's second season, Rolling Hills defeated Palos Verdes and won its first girls' basketball playoff game in school history, beating Simi Valley in a Southern Section 4-A Division first-round game.

Dodson retired in 1984, but Taylor was denied the coaching job at Rolling Hills because he had not completed his credential.

Taylor became a truck driver for a year before going to Washington High in 1986 as an assistant to Phil Chase. "Going to Washington and running into Phil was like a godsend," Taylor said.

Chase, a spectator at the June 12 game, guided the Generals to an unprecedented four consecutive City titles from 1989-92. Washington had a 64-game winning streak against City opponents before Chase resigned after the 1992 season.

"The first time I told him that he had to take the kids home after practice, that was kind of a shock to him," Chase said about Taylor. "At Rolling Hills, most of the kids probably had their own cars. You do a lot more than coaching when you're working with the kids in the inner city. You're the surrogate parent, the counselor, the doctor . . . whatever. That's his strong point."

His knowledge of basketball isn't too shabby, either.

In 1987, he landed the coaching position at Fremont, where he also teaches English. The Pathfinders won the Central League title in 1990 and have qualified for the playoffs every season under Taylor. He also has coached a team in the Say No Classic women's summer league the past four seasons.

But Fremont was not in peak form last Saturday.

The Pathfinders, still working the kinks out of their newly installed man-to-man defense, went scoreless for nearly eight minutes of the second half as the Pilots broke a 14-14 halftime tie to pull away for a 39-26 victory.

Although disappointed with his team's play, Taylor was more concerned about how he was going to squeeze additional players into his car for the trip to Fremont.

"He's like a father to all of us," Fremont senior center Trashon Perkins said. "He never missed practices and never missed a game. I don't understand why he came to a scrimmage game in a tie. I wonder myself about him. Sometimes I wonder why he came to Fremont."

Sometimes Taylor wonders too.

"I fully intended to get back to more of a middle-class school, but thank God I didn't," Taylor said. "It's a frustrating job, but I knew the inner city was my spot after the first hour. Every player has a horror story to tell, but it's so rewarding when the kids do well against tough odds. I guess I'm somewhat of a dreamer."

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Signed, sealed, delivered--Mayra Medina of Laguna Hills High and Ruben Benitez of Valley College have signed letters of intent to run track at Cal State L.A.

Medina, the Southern Section Division III cross-country champion, placed third at the state cross-country meet in November. Benitez, the Western State Conference 400-meter champion, has bests of 21.30 and 47.20 for 200 and 400 meters.

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Football--Locke High and Loyola High were able to advance to the quarterfinal round of the L.A. Watts Summer Games football competition at Compton College on June 12-13.

But both schools lost by identical 7-6 scores.

Locke was beaten by Muir High and Loyola fell to Hart High.

Saint quarterback Akili Roberson used running back-turned-wide receiver Sirr Parker as his primary target.

Locke's only score came on a pass from Roberson to Parker.

Locke defeated St. Genevieve, 45-19, and Long Beach Wilson, 12-6, before falling to Muir.

In its game against Hart, Loyola--last season's Southern Section Division I runner-up--scored on quarterback Bobby Thomason's pass to flanker Danny Torres.

In other games involving Central City teams, Bell defeated Jordan, 18-6, in the first round with quarterback Danny Morales throwing three touchdowns passes.

Bell later lost to Loyola, 12-0.

Crenshaw fell in the first round to Beverly Hills, 14-13.

Cougar quarterback Javon Jiles threw touchdown passes to John Johnson and Dennis Fomond.

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