For the first time in 34 years, since his freshman season at Hawthorne High, Gary Kimbrell did not coach or play football last fall. He watched.
“It wasn’t so bad,” he said. “I found I can live without it.”
Kimbrell, who resigned as Miraleste’s coach after the 1986 season, survived without football. But not for long.
Kimbrell will return to the sidelines next season as coach at Rolling Hills. He replaces John Mack Brown, whose teams struggled to a 5-24-1 record over three years.
Brown says he was forced out by the Rolling Hills administration.
“They made the decision,” he said. “I’m disappointed. I spent 2 1/2 years putting an awful lot of time into that job.
“We have 29 kids coming back next year. I don’t like to leave that.”
Rolling Hills was 3-6-1 last season, following two straight 1-9 years.
In Kimbrell, the Titans have acquired a winner. He coached Miraleste to nine CIF playoff berths, four league titles and a record of 69-42-2 in 10 years.
In addition, he is familiar with Rolling Hills. He was an assistant under former Titans Coach Dwaine Lyon from 1967-76.
“I’m enthused about the whole idea,” he said. “It’s not a situation where they don’t want to win. I think changing attitudes is the big thing.
“I’ve always believed that in high school football you have the potential of beating anyone. When you’re dealing with 16- and 17-year-olds, the potential is always there. I don’t think I ever walked on the field feeling we were going to lose.”
Kimbrell used Granada Hills as an example. The Highlanders, who suffered a 42-14 loss to Carson early in the season, beat the Colts two weeks ago in the L. A. City 4-A championship game, 27-14.
Kimbrell will attempt to turn Rolling Hills around with the help of Jim Small, longtime defensive coordinator at Miraleste, and possibly a few former head coaches from the South Bay area.
“There are some people who might want to come out of retirement,” he said, declining to divulge names. “I think we can have an excellent staff. It’s going to be a necessity in the league we’re going to play in.”
If Miraleste is closed as planned, the Bay League next year will be made up of Rolling Hills, Palos Verdes, Hawthorne, Leuzinger, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Inglewood and Torrance. Hawthorne, Leuzinger and Santa Monica reached the quarterfinals of the playoffs last season, while Palos Verdes and Beverly Hills tied for league titles.
Rolling Hills figures to have a tough time competing in such a tough league, but Kimbrell says school administrators are committed to building a winner.
“I was impressed because they took the blame for the lack of success instead of blaming John Brown,” he said. “They didn’t give him a lot of help. I know he had trouble getting assistant coaches.”
Kimbrell is familiar with that problem. One reason he resigned at Miraleste was the difficulty in acquiring and keeping assistant coaches. As a result, the underclass programs suffered. He says he won’t let that happen again.
“I’m anxious to get back in coaching and do it right,” he said. “I was disappointed with some of the things I was doing at Miraleste. I had given up in certain areas, like the lower levels.
“If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right from top to bottom. I don’t know how many more years I’m going to do this--five or 10--but I’m going to do it right.”
Kimbrell will get the ball rolling in two weeks when he meets with Rolling Hills’ players during lunchtime.
It will mark a fresh start for a school in need of a new direction in football.
Banning and Miraleste have new baseball coaches.
Syl Saavedra replaces Dan Evans at Banning while Ken Russell, longtime junior varsity coach at Palos Verdes, takes over at Miraleste.
Russell has coached Palos Verdes’ junior varsity the past 16 years, guiding the Sea Kings to 15 league titles. He inherits a Miraleste team that won only four games last season.
“The program has been struggling,” he said. “But if the pitching improves, I think we have a chance to be a lot better than last year.
“Our goal is winning a playoff spot. I worked with the players all summer and saw a lot of improvement.”
The main drawback in coaching baseball at Miraleste, aside from the fact that the school is expected to close, is that the Marauders compete in the Pioneer League with Redondo and El Segundo, two of the area’s best teams.
Russell will continue teaching at Palos Verdes while coaching at Miraleste.
Saavadra was the Banning junior varsity baseball coach from 1982-85, guiding the Pilots to Marine League titles all four years and an overall mark of 74-14.
Evans, one of the area’s winningest coaches, reportedly is stepping down for personal reasons. He took Banning to the L. A. City 4-A finals in 1981.
Westchester’s fine showing in the Las Vegas Holiday Prep Basketball Classic included an 84-69 win over Coolidge of Washington, D. C. in a second-round game. Coolidge was unbeaten and ranked No. 10 in the nation by USA Today.
Althea Moses of Morningside, Lamonica Smith of Banning and Kim McAllister of Locke will bid for the gold medal in the girls 880-yard run Jan. 22 at the 29th Sunkist Invitational track meet at the Sports Arena.
McAllister, two-time defending champion, is the early favorite with a personal-best time of 2:12.36. Moses’ and Smith’s best times are 2:13.45 and 2:18.74.
In boys competition, Curtis Conway of Hawthorne will compete in the 60-yard dash against a talented field.
Conway, who ran a best of 10.81 for 100 meters at last year’s CIF finals, is matched against Washington’s Brian Bridewater (10.63), San Francisco Riordan’s Tony Miller (10.41) and possibly Tucson Amphitheater’s Mike Bates (10.34).
PREP NOTES--Carson topped the All-L. A. City 4-A Division football team with 10 selections. The Colts are represented on offense by wide receiver Bryan Reeves, guard Morris Unutoa, quarterback George Malauulu, running back Errol Sapp and kicker Louis Perez. Carson selections on defense are lineman Sale Paopao, linebackers Arnold Ale, Rick Tiedemann and Arthur Warren and safety Charles Gardner. Banning placed three players: offensive tackle Bob Whitfield and defensive linemen Titus Tuiasosopo and Sonny Fuavai. Gardena is represented by running back Derrick Duren and linebacker Aman Hicks. Granada Hills quarterback Jeremy Leach, who passed for 35 touchdowns and engineered the Highlanders’ 27-14 upset over Carson in the City championship game, was named 4-A player of the year. San Pedro linemen Joe Santos and David Samperio and Narbonne linebacker Eric Williams were chosen to the All-City 3-A squad. The selections were made by the All-L. A. City Board of Football. . . . Hawthorne’s Conway, a junior quarterback, and Carson’s Ale are the only South Bay players who earned honorable mention on USA Today’s High School All-USA Football Team. . . . North Torrance’s basketball team gave Coach Jim Nielsen a thrill Tuesday night by beating El Segundo, 65-63, in four overtimes. The Saxons were down by nine points with four minutes left in regulation play before rallying for their fourth win in 11 games. “It was a tremendously exciting game and was by far the best game of the year for us,” Nielsen said.
South Bay Top 10 Boys’ Basketball
Selected by Times sportswriters
(Records through Tuesday’s games)
Rank, School, League Record 1 Westchester (Central) 11-0 2 West Torrance (Bay) 10-3 3 St. Bernard (Angelus) 8-3 4 Carson (Marine) 8-2 5 Palos Verdes (Bay) 8-4 6 Rolling Hills (Bay) 8-4 7 Morningside (Pioneer) 7-5 8 Banning (Marine) 6-4 9 Inglewood (Ocean) 6-6 10 Serra (Camino Real) 5-6