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This Coach Needs to Curb His Temper

March 15, 1994|ERIC SHEPARD

Gary McKnight has exceeded expectations as the boys' basketball coach at Santa Ana Mater Dei High. In 12 seasons, his teams have won nine Southern Section titles and two State championships. Many of his players have received college scholarships.

Now it is time, however, for the colorful coach to move on. His winning program is like a train out of control. He needs to take his energy and knowledge and channel them in a different direction.

McKnight's behavior has become erratic, often to the point where he is embarrassing himself and his school.

Last Saturday night, Mater Dei played Crenshaw in the Southern Regional Division I title game before a large crowd and a live television audience at Anaheim Arena. The real action was on the Mater Dei bench, however, where McKnight acted like anything but a veteran coach.

Unhappy over the officiating from the opening whistle, McKnight displayed his anger the entire evening. He seldom sat down and occasionally walked outside the coach's box.

He got a technical foul in the first quarter and probably should have had another any number of times. He used profanity freely, which was clearly heard by anyone standing within 50 yards of him.

At one point he yelled at Dean Crowley, the Southern Section commissioner sitting courtside, about the assigning of the game officials. The comment was not only inappropriate, but Crowley had nothing to do with the running of the game, because it was a state CIF event.

Things got downright ugly late in the game when a three-pointer by McKnight's son, Clay, was nullified by a controversial foul. The basket would have tied the score, 69-69. Instead, Crenshaw went on to win, 71-67, handing the Monarchs their first loss of the season.

After the play, McKnight screamed about the call, and did not let up until well after the game. He complained during the awards ceremony and postgame interviews. He derided a reporter who asked about his temper.

McKnight had displayed similar antics the previous weekend during the Southern Section championships.

Even fans began shouting for him to sit down and get in the game.

As the basketball coach and boys' athletic director of one of the largest and most prestigious Catholic schools in Southern California, McKnight needs to curb his temper and re-examine his win-at-all-costs mentality.

"I've had to talk with Gary about his actions after a few games, and Saturday night was one of them," said Lyle Porter, Mater Dei's principal.

"He was taking out the officiating on the wrong people. There are proper channels for such complaints, and mid-court probably is not one of them."


Channel 9's telecast of the Mater Dei-Crenshaw game finished with a 3.1 rating, the second-highest for a basketball game on television during the weekend.

Surprisingly, perhaps, it finished ahead of the UCLA-Oregon telecast (2.3), the Lakers' 2.8 and the Clippers' 1.7. It trailed only the Orlando-Phoenix NBA game Sunday on Channel 4, which had a 4.1.

Officials at Channel 9 will review the numbers in the next week or two and decide if they want to pick up the option on the four-year contract they recently signed with the CIF.

"I think the future looks good," said Bob Seagren of Marketing and Financial Management, which is representing the CIF. "The people at Channel 9 were happy with the quality of competition and thought the rating was respectable. I think they'll pick up the option and perhaps even add more sports for next year."

Prep Notes

The State basketball tournament concludes this weekend with Southern Regional and Northern Regional winners meeting in five divisions. All games will be at the Oakland Coliseum. Divisions II and IV play Friday and Divisions I, III and V on Saturday. . . . The tournament's biggest surprise is Los Angeles Pacific Hills, which won the boys' Division V Southern Regional on Saturday. Pacific Hills, which changed its school name from Bel-Air Prep last October, barely made the Southern Section playoffs as an at-large entry. But the Bruins went on to win the section's Division V-A title and upset North Hollywood Campbell Hall in the regional semifinals last Thursday. "Nobody knows who we are because of our new name," Coach John Bobich said. "We've kind of snuck up on people all season."

Times' Top 20 Basketball Polls

The Times' top 20 high school basketball polls, with teams from the City and Southern Sections.


School Sect. Div. Rec. LW 1. Crenshaw City 4-A 28-2 2 2. Mater Dei SS I-A 33-1 1 3. Inglewood SS II-AA 30-4 3 4. LB Poly SS I-AA 26-7 6 5. JW North SS II-AA 29-2 7 6. St. John Bosco SS II-A 28-3 4 7. Dominguez SS II-A 28-4 5 8. Fontana SS I-AA 26-1 8 9. Santa Barbara SS II-AA 28-3 9 10. Verbum Dei SS IV-A 26-3 10 11. Westchester City 4-A 23-5 11 12. Pacifica SS III-A 30-1 16 13. Glendora SS II-AA 27-3 13 14. Loyola SS I-A 22-6 14 15. Fairfax City 4-A 21-6 15 16. Fremont City 4-A 21-7 12 17. S. Ana Valley SS I-AA 26-4 17 18. Los Alamitos SS I-AA 22-5 18 19. Edison SS I-A 19-11 19 20. Dorsey City 4-A 16-9 NR


School Sect. Div. Rec. LW 1. Brea-Olinda SS III-AA 32-0 1 2. Lynwood SS I-AA 32-1 2 3. Woodbridge SS II-AA 32-0 5 4. Alemany SS II-A 30-1 3 5. Buena SS I-A 25-3 4 6. St. Bernard SS IV-AA 28-5 7 7. Peninsula SS I-AA 25-5 6 8. Mater Dei SS I-A 24-5 8 9. San Bernardino SS II-A 26-6 9 10. Cypress SS II-A 26-4 11 11. Bishop Amat SS II-A 24-2 12 12. Ventura SS II-A 21-6 13 13. B. Montgomery SS III-AA 23-8 14 14. Gahr SS II-AA 13-16* 16 15. Newport Harbor SS III-AA 24-8 NR 16. Santa Ynez SS IV-AA 26-6 NR 17. Valley Chr. SS IV-A 27-3 10 18. Newbury Park SS III-AA 23-5 18 19. Diamond Bar SS I-AA 23-2 20 20. Lompoc SS III-A 24-5 15

* Indicates 10 losses by forfeit.

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