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Ventura's New Beginning Has Familiar Look

Men's basketball: Pirates hope to regain their high standard under Buena High graduate Winslow.

May 20, 1999|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VENTURA — A Ventura College men's basketball team that has experienced dizzying heights and depressing lows in a four-year span has turned to a familiar face to give the program a fresh look.

Greg Winslow, 35, a 1982 graduate of Buena High married to a Ventura High graduate, has been handed a floor plan and asked to construct a program from scratch. Four years after being turned down for the same job, he was hired as head coach.

"To say I'm excited is an understatement," Winslow said. "My wife's parents and my grandparents are [in Ventura]. It's nice to be back to an area where people really do know you."

Winslow raised his stock the last two seasons by turning around San Bernardino Valley College. The team was 19-14 and 25-8 in his two seasons after going 4-19 the season before he became coach.

A more challenging rebuilding project awaits him.

Ventura did not field a team the last two seasons because of violations in the mid-1990s that included free meals and hotel rooms for players, financial inconsistencies and other preferential treatment.

The turmoil chewed up three coaches, starting with Virgil Watson, who led the team to the second of its back-to-back state championships in 1996. He was fired in March 1997, because administrators said he was a poor teacher.

Jim Keating, coach at Shasta College in Redding, replaced Watson in July 1997, saying, "If I were asked which I'd like to win, the California lottery or become the head coach at Ventura, I'd say I got what I wanted."

A month later, before he even set foot on campus, Keating quit, saying, "There never was a 100% consensus [my family] wanted to move."

Enter Glen Hefferman, who was passed over in favor of Watson and Keating but got the job after Keating quit. Hefferman lasted two months, fleeing to Chicago after Ventura was put on a two-year probation.

Problems continued to mount until Ventura administrators pulled the plug on a program that won three state championships in 11 years, largely by attracting players from as far away as New York and Chicago.

Winslow said a combination of local and out-of-state players is necessary for long-term success, but that his first priority is to recruit close to home. He spent Wednesday on high school campuses in Ventura.

"Dwelling on the past is not important at this point, whether it's the tremendous success or the recent turmoil," Winslow said.

Winslow was an assistant at Cal State San Bernardino for three seasons and at Bakersfield College for two seasons before going to San Bernardino. He will draw on all his contacts to field a team at Ventura.

"Some athletes I've recruited to San Bernardino Valley have contacted me and expressed interest in coming to Ventura," he said. "My immediate goals are to be competitive and disciplined and let the program build from there."

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