Frontier Domination by Santa Clara Invites Charges of Recruiting

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Hey, Lou. They’re talking about you--again. This time it’s those Coyotes over at Calabasas.

“Why is it every time we win a league game, other coaches start complaining about having to play us?” Santa Clara Coach Lou Cvijanovich said. “I’ve heard it for 30 years. If I’ve really done something wrong, why am I still here?”

Maybe it’s because Santa Clara wins so often.

Since he began coaching at Santa Clara in 1957, Cvijanovich has compiled a 559-193 record. The Saints have won eight Southern Section 1-A Division championships and one 2-A title in 1985, their first year in the new division.

Rival coaches believe Cvijanovich enjoys an unfair advantage because he works for a private school.

“I don’t think a private school should be in the same league with public schools,” Calabasas Coach Bill Bellatty said. “It really burns me up. They don’t have any boundaries. They can get kids from anywhere. Why don’t they just hand the championship to Santa Clara. They win it every year.”

Calabasas has never beaten Santa Clara in a Frontier League game, losing 16 in a row. Both teams are undefeated and will play at 7:30 tonight at Santa Clara.

While a private school can draw students from anywhere, it cannot recruit a student for athletic purposes. Cvijanovich has been accused of recruiting, which would be a violation of Southern Section rules.

“There is no truth to it,” Cvijanovich said. “I’m running a first-class program. I’ve worked hard to develop basketball programs at the high school and elementary levels. Why can’t people give me credit for it?

“If a player decides to transfer to Santa Clara, shouldn’t I welcome him with open arms? If one of our kids transfers to another school, we don’t complain.”

Cvijanovich credits his success to working countless hours and developing youth programs at the four elementary schools, which feed into Santa Clara.

And Cvijanovich insists no one has ever left Santa Clara (8-7, 1-0) for another school.

Bellatty hinted that Cvijanovich does more than work hard to make Santa Clara a winner, but won’t say anything more until Calabasas (8-9, 2-0) beats the Saints.

“I don’t want to say anything because I don’t want to give them any more incentive,” Bellatty said. “After we beat them, then I’ll tell you what I really think of that program.”

Bench play: Bret Saberhagen visited his alma mater Wednesday afternoon where he watched Cleveland dismantle Kennedy, 85-66, in an important Valley League game. Saberhagen, an All-Star pitcher with the Kansas City Royals, played basketball at Cleveland before signing a pro baseball contract.

“He played here on the City championship team in 1982,” said Cleveland Coach Bob Braswell, who was a varsity assistant at the time. “He was the starting off-guard that year. He was pretty good.”

If the lanky right-hander ever had any questions about the direction of his career, Braswell said a decision might have been hastened by a certain play during his senior season.

“We had this team rule that if you missed a dunk during a game, you went to the bench,” Braswell said, laughing. “Well, Bret had been making some dunks in practice, and he finally gets a chance during a game. He has this breakaway layup and the whole team is yelling at him to slam it, but he goes up and blows it.

“He doesn’t even wait for a timeout or the clock to stop or anything--he just runs straight to the bench while the game’s going on and sits down. It was a pretty funny thing to see.”

Add Cleveland: Two banners hang from the gym wall at Cleveland, signifying the team’s City Section 3-A Division championships in 1981 and ’82. The following year, the Cavaliers were moved up to the 4-A Division, and the wins continued to accumulate.

Not much has changed since Braswell, who played basketball at Cleveland, took over the varsity reins two seasons ago. Since he became coach, the Cavaliers, ranked third in The Times’ 4-A poll, have lost only two games at home, both to Valley League rival Fairfax.

For all other visitors, Cleveland is the Land of the Loss.

Fairfax defeated Cleveland four times last year--the Cavaliers’ only losses--including a loss in the City final. Fairfax again defeated Cleveland at Fairfax last month. Is Braswell looking for retribution?

“I swear I don’t even know when we play them,” Braswell said. “I can’t afford to look ahead in this league.”

For the record, Fairfax, ranked No. 2 by The Times, visits Cleveland on Jan. 27.

Bell with the ball: While Monroe has been going down, Michael Bell, the team’s leading scorer, has been going wild.

Bell, a 6-2 senior forward, has been the high scorer in three of Monroe’s past four games--all losses. Bell scored 28 points Wednesday as Monroe lost to San Fernando, 75-65. Last Friday, the Vikings were routed by Canoga Park, 88-53, but the Bell rang up 29 points.

Bell, however, would gladly trade his high numbers for some numbers in the win column. Monroe is 1-9 and last in the Northwest Valley League with an 0-2 record.

“Nothing matters unless we win,” Bell said. “Everybody usually passes it around and they’re scared to shoot. So, they pass it to me and watch me shoot.”

Final word: After going through the preseason 13-1 and winning two tournaments, the Burroughs girls’ basketball team dropped its first two Foothill League games, losing to Alhambra, 51-34, and to Schurr in overtime, 51-48.

Against Alhambra, the Indians not only lost their league opener, they lost their tempers, and then their coach. For the first time in more than 20 years of coaching, Brian Hurst, who is also the school’s athletic director, was ejected with three technicals.

After getting a technical foul in the first half, and another at halftime, Hurst was ejected 1:40 into the second half when a technical was called against the team’s bench. Technical fouls against a team’s bench are assessed against the coach.

“I went outside the gym and parents relayed information to me until an Alhambra faculty representative told them to get in or out,” Hurst said. “I thought that was totally out of line. The bathrooms are outside the gym and you had people going in and out all the time.”

But Hurst is willing to accept some of the blame.

“A parent from the other school came up to me and said that I might not have deserved it tonight, but it makes up for all the other times,” Hurst said.

Add Burroughs: Through its first 15 games, Burroughs had been outscoring opponents by an average of 24.3 points a game, even though no player averages more than 15 points a game.

The leading scorer for the Indians is senior guard Kelley McCauley, who is averaging 13.8 points a game. Center Quaif VanBenschoten is the second-leading scorer, averaging 8.4 points and 9.5 rebounds. “I think that we have a quality team, with good height and speed,” Hurst said.

Staff writers Steve Elling, Steven Fleischman and Vince Kowalick contributed to this notebook.