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Challenges Aplenty for New Coaches

September 17, 2003|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

The football coaching ranks in the City Section saw a fair share of turnover in the off-season, when nine schools made changes at the top.

Some changes occurred at the best programs in the section; others at the worst.

Three coaches who have inherited vastly different situations are Kevin Pearson of Woodland Hills Taft, Larry Wein of Hamilton and Eric Jaimes of Franklin.

Pearson comes to Taft from Los Angeles Cathedral, where he led the Phantoms to six league championships and 14 playoff victories in eight seasons. Before Pearson's arrival, Cathedral had won only six league titles in 69 years.

It has been a rough beginning at tradition-rich Taft, which has played in five of the last seven City title games. Pearson missed a number of practices while attending a five-day introductory class for new employees mandated by the L.A. Unified School District.

Only days before last week's season opener, Agustin Galindo, a junior reserve lineman, was among three students wounded in a drive-by shooting at a bus stop in front of the campus. On Friday, the Toreadors lost, 34-6, to visiting Crenshaw.

"Four or five of our football players were right next to [Galindo] at the bus stop," Pearson said of the shooting. "If one of those kids, any one of them, had been killed, it would have been a horribly traumatic experience."

It's a rebuilding year at Taft following the graduation of Steve Smith (USC) and Cary Dove (California), but Pearson knew this when he sought the advice of former Toreador coach Troy Starr before applying for the position.

"Before Troy got there, [the program] was garbage," Pearson said. "These guys have been winners the last 11 years. I think I'm smart enough to know that we're very young and jumping in these guys' faces is not the answer.

"They're going to be good. We need to keep reassuring them that they're going to be good."


That Wein is coaching a winning team is no surprise. Coaching Hamilton to a victory, however, is a surprise.

After 20 years at Westchester, Wein, 61, is trying to resurrect the Yankees. It will be an arduous task. Hamilton, whose alumni include Warren Moon and Rod Martin, finished 0-10 last season.

Imagine the atmosphere after Friday's 23-13 victory over Washington.

"It was like they had won a world championship," Wein said. "They poured water on me. I said if they keep winning and doing that, they may have to take me to the hospital."

In 27 years at Dorsey and Westchester, Wein won numerous league championships, and the 1987 3-A division title with the Comets.

At Westchester he routinely fielded one of the section's top programs but was not allowed to continue as coach after retiring as the school's dean in 2002.

"I sort of missed it a little bit," said Wein, who did not coach last year. "It's challenging. It's kind of like when I came to Westchester. Back then, I was 39 and it was definitely a different stage in my life."

Several coaches expect the veteran coach to make a major difference at Hamilton. Fairfax's Shane Cox said the Yankees "are 10 times better than last year."

Said Wein: "We have ups and downs but, basically, we're moving in the right direction."


Jaimes ran into Armando Gonzalez on the Franklin sideline during his first game as coach Friday against South Gate. Was his mentor trying to get his old job back?

"I said, 'Hey, Coach, do you want to go upstairs and be on the headphones or should I go upstairs?' " Jaimes quipped.

No worry. It's Jaimes' show now.

After three years as a lower-level coach and defensive coordinator under Gonzalez, Jaimes, 28, is fulfilling his dream.

"I've been privileged to work under [Gonzalez] because of the standards he set," Jaimes said. "People ask me if there's pressure and say that I've got big shoes to fill. I wouldn't put myself in this situation if I didn't want that pressure."

Gonzalez, now the coach at San Juan Capistrano Serra, won 159 games in 17 years at Franklin.

Jaimes got his first victory Friday when the Panthers won, 19-0.

On the other sideline stood South Gate assistant Ed Elias, who was Jaimes' coach when he was a standout cornerback at Franklin from 1990-93.

"Being in charge is a responsibility," Jaimes said. "It's like being the captain of a ship."


City top 10: 1. Venice (1-0); 2. Dorsey (1-0); 3. Crenshaw (1-0); 4. Gardena (1-0); 5. Birmingham (0-1); 6. Granada Hills (1-0); 7. San Pedro (1-0); 8. Palisades (1-0); 9. Sylmar (0-1); 10. Roosevelt (1-0).

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