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PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE | PREP FOOTBALL '96

Laguna Beach Gets a Fresh Start

Former Corona del Mar Coach Dave Holland takes over, with a plan to create a winning atmosphere.

September 10, 1996|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LAGUNA BEACH — Dave Holland has been here before, which might explain the excitement on Laguna Beach's campus this year.

Holland, a grandfatherly 61, is taking over a football program that gets little respect. Though Holland says his players hate the school name, Artists, it isn't exactly an inappropriate moniker for a program that has gone 13-65-1 the last eight years, fighting the battles that accompany having the county's smallest public school enrollment.

Holland is trying to put his stamp on a program that sorely needs one, a program so far gone, most people will be surprised to hear the Artists last won a title in 1987, their last winning season.

The following year, up PCH at Corona del Mar--the second-smallest public school--Holland was coaching the Sea Kings to the first of two consecutive Southern Section Division VI championships. After the second, he was named California coach of the year.

So if Holland says something on the Laguna Beach campus and people listen, well, maybe it's because he has something to say.

"If I thought it was hopeless, if I didn't think the kids would believe or buy into my stuff, I wouldn't take the job," said Holland, who returns to the Orange County scene after a two-year absence.

He spent 20 years at Corona del Mar over two terms, from 1967-75, and 1983-93, and compiled a 106-92-10 record. Despite being undermanned, he won more often than not. He followed that with a two-year hiatus from prep sports, the first year spent as the defensive coordinator at Grossmont College in El Cajon.

A coach on the Corona del Mar staff who accompanied him to Grossmont, Greg Marshall, became athletic director at Laguna Beach, making Holland's return inevitable when Mike Roche resigned after three years and a 6-24 record.

"This is what I do," Holland said. "I felt good about making kids feel good about themselves. I wasn't happy not coaching. If [Marshall] wanted to be the head coach, I would have assisted him, but he wanted me to be head coach."

Said Marshall: "I want to be a head coach one day, but being the athletic director, I have to hire the best guy for the job. . . . I had to swallow my pride, but it was pretty easy."

The decision gave the Artists instant credibility. It's hard to find someone in the coaching community who says Holland's arrival isn't a positive step.

"He's really good at adapting his offense and defense to [the talent] he has," said Woodbridge's Rick Gibson, who coached against Holland in the Sea View League. "He's had good players before, but he gets the most out of average and below average players."

Steve Bresnahan, coach of two-time defending PCL champion Laguna Hills, agreed, but preached caution: "Things just don't happen that fast to build a football program. It takes a lot of hard work and time. To expect Dave to work miracles overnight isn't fair."

The commitment to the turnaround by Holland, hired in December, was evident when he taught a football class the second semester. "He was serious about how you dressed and acted, about being on time; that's when the kids took notice, when he stayed on them into the second week," Marshall said. "He was going to be consistent. If he believes this is the right way of doing it, he's going to follow through on it."

Since his arrival, a football booster club was formed, a summer lift-a-thon was created (raising $4,000 for a program that was more than $1,000 in debt), and a mandatory summer camp was held. Holland has emphasized the weight room, is doing away with the junior varsity program and concentrating on developing a strong freshman squad; there are 23 freshmen in the program, a total of 35 sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Things are changing. Marshall is convinced there won't be many more lean seasons for the Artists: "Dave has a five-year plan, and I definitely believe that within that span, we'll have some winning seasons."

He emphasizes the plurality of the statement: Dave Holland has been there before.

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