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Boys' Basketball: Xavier Castellano named coach at Estancia

Xavier Castellano embarked on two new career paths on Wednesday.

In the morning, he began his first day of teaching in the Orange Unified School District. Later that day, he became the boys' basketball coach at Estancia High.

Castellano is going back to the program he played for and served as an assistant, Estancia Principal Kirk Bauermeister said Thursday. At the same time, the new job means Castellano must leave his coaching post with the Estancia girls' basketball team, which he led for six seasons.

Castellano is also giving up his title. No longer will he be a co-coach, a label he shared with Judd Fryslie with the girls.

"It's an honor and a blessing," Castellano said of the opportunity to guide the boys, before adding that he's going to miss coaching the girls. "[The girls] understood my decision to leave. We have [built] such a good foundation, and that's the reason why we've been successful. No one cared to get the credit, and the girls are going to be in good hands with Judd as their head coach."

Castellano and Fryslie enjoyed success with the girls, three outright Orange Coast League titles in the past four seasons, including a trip two seasons ago to the CIF Southern Section Division 3A quarterfinals, the Eagles' deepest playoff run since the 1998-99 season.

The boys' basketball team at Estancia hasn't accomplished as much in recent seasons. The Eagles finished runner-up five times in league the last seven seasons, making the postseason each time, three trips went as far as the second round.

Castellano takes over for Agustin Heredia, who stepped down last month after six seasons in charge to spend more time with his son. The new and old coaches have some similarities. Both played guard at Estancia, Heredia more than Castellano, and with far more success, and they referred to the Estancia position as their dream job.

"He did a great job, and he was one of the best to ever play at the school," Castellano said of Heredia, who as a senior led the Eagles to the CIF Southern Section Division 3-AA title in the 1989-90 season.

Castellano, a 1998 Estancia graduate, is a passionate coach. Don't expect him to change his sideline demeanor. He comes to the court the same way for every game, dressed in his typical dark slacks, white-collared shirt and dark tie, ready to lift his team vocally.

During his stint with the girls, Castellano turned the Eagles into a competitive program right away. He replaced his friend, Tommy Rausch, whose team went 3-23 and 0-9 in league in 2007-08, and Estancia began the first of six straight winning seasons under Castellano. Before Castellano assumed the top spot, Estancia, a perennial playoff team, missed the playoffs four seasons in a row.

With Castellano at the helm, the Eagles made the postseason every time, and compiled a 107-56 overall record and 45-11 mark in league. His best regular season was this past one in which Estancia produced a 24-4 record, earning a No. 5 seed in the Division 3A playoffs. The team exited in the second round, the same round the boys' season ended.

The last second-round win by the boys came during the 2004-05 season, when they reached the Division III-A semifinals and claimed the Golden West League title. Castellano was as an assistant under then-coach Jason Simco. Castellano fondly remembers the season, the first of two with Simco, his friend.

He wants to restore Estancia's once-proud tradition. There's a lot of work ahead for Castellano. Estancia is coming off a 10-18 season, 4-6 in league, good for fourth place. The team lost its best player, guard Josh Mendoza, to graduation. Mendoza averaged 19.7 points per game to lead the area in scoring for the second straight season. Each season, the Eagles wound up with a losing record.

To move the program into a different direction, the Eagles now turn to a 34-year-old who made his teaching debut on Wednesday. Castellano survived his first day in the classroom. He has time to prepare for his first boys' basketball game as Estancia's head coach. The season tips off on Dec. 1.

"I have my work cut out for me," said Castellano, who isn't the only Castellano coaching a boys' team at Estancia. "My brother Robert led his [boys' soccer team] to the semifinals [of the Division 5 playoffs] last season. We have a lot of work ahead of us to go that far.

"My dad's proud that we're coaching the teams we played for in high school. It's because of my dad we like basketball and soccer so much, and he taught us the value of being part of a team."

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