Birmingham Coach Ignores Illness as Race for 2nd Reaches Fever Pitch
His temperature was 104 degrees and doctor’s orders were to stay in bed. Instead, Elliot Turret wearily wandered courtside and coached the Birmingham Braves to crucial Northwest Valley League victories against Chatsworth and Canoga Park.
It seems the coach’s forehead was not the only thing that was warming up.
The wins moved Birmingham (4-3) into sole possession of third place and a game behind second-place Granada Hills. Birmingham visits Granada Hills at 4 p.m. today.
It has been a long time since Turret has been involved in the heat of a league race. He was not about to sweat it out with a thermometer under his tongue.
“I’d have felt worse because of the stress and the anxiety of having not gone,” the first-year coach said.
In the past, Turret could have stayed at home and had breakfast in bed without worrying about his team winning. In five years at Crossroads, from 1983-87, Turret’s teams won five Delphic League titles and three Southern Section championships.
“My first year at Crossroads, we played Brentwood for the league championship on the last game of the year,” Turret said. “Other than that, we waltzed in pretty much every year.”
Not this year. With first-place San Fernando holding a two-game lead over Granada Hills with three to play, Turret is realistically shooting for second place.
But a second-place finish will not be be easy. Birmingham closes the season against San Fernando, which clubbed the Braves, 80-59, two weeks ago. The situation reminds Turret of the Delphic League.
“One team is knocking off everyone and and everyone else has to go for what’s left,” he said. “That’s what we’re doing.”
Birmingham’s chances have been steadily improving. Guard Greg Maxwell has scored in double figures in eight consecutive games. Jason Moore has scored in double figures in four in a row.
“I’m just learning this league and who has the talent,” Turret said. “If somehow I could start over as experienced as we are now, it would be great. But I also wish I had a seven-foot center, I wish I had a new suit and I wish I didn’t have pneumonia.”
Add game: Turret is the first to admit that Granada Hills holds a size advantage.
“They have much more height and much more muscle up front,” he said.
True, the Highlanders’ center, Alvin Brown (6-3, 220), is a mite meatier than Birmingham’s Jason Wallace (6-3, 175). Why, Granada Hills even has the bigger wide receiver.
That’s right. Kyle Jan (6-4, 195), a first-team Times All-Valley selection as a member of the City Section 4-A championship team, is averaging 10 points and 6.5 rebounds a game as a forward.
Appeal process: The City Section has granted a hearing for an appeal of its decision to ban the Cleveland swim team from competition in postseason meets this spring, City Commissioner Hal Harkness said. The ban stems from last season when the team entered an academically ineligible swimmer in the City semifinal meet under another swimmer’s name.
Harkness said the appeal only deals with the ban. No hearing date has been set.
Strange allies: Granada Hills Coach Darryl Stroh, who rarely finds himself on the same side of an issue as City officials, placed himself in an unfamiliar camp when he endorsed the City’s releaguing proposal.
The plan, which has been submitted to the City’s 49 schools for study, groups schools in six conferences, five of which consist of two four-team leagues. The sixth conference includes a five-team league. The conferences are structured along geographical lines.
“I like the concept. It brings back rivalries and is a healthy step in the right direction,” said Stroh, who coaches baseball and football. “There is enough flexibility to handle the ongoing problem of distributing teams in the leagues to get the better teams in the playoffs.”
Candidates: Montclair Prep football Coach Pat Blackburn and two members of the Alemany faculty have applied for the coaching position at Alemany that became vacant when Enrique Lopez was fired last week.
Alemany teachers Mark Lovett, an assistant coach at Cal State Northridge, and Mike Noonan, one of Lopez’s assistants, also have applied, Athletic Director Dudley Rooney said.
Rooney said he will accept applications until Feb. 21 and hopes to make a decision by the middle of next month.
Blackburn was Alemany’s defensive coordinator in 1985 and has a 12-9 record in two seasons at Montclair Prep.
Floor time: When the Canoga Park basketball team has won, it has won big.
“But when we’ve lost, we’ve lost big,” Coach Joey Nakasone said. “We haven’t had any close games.”
Canoga Park (3-14, 2-5 in league play) has lost 12 games by 11 points or more, including four losses by more than 40 points. But the Hunters have also had the upper hand on occasion. Both league wins were against Monroe by margins of 35 and 14 points.
Because of the recurring lopsided scores, there has been plenty of playing time for everyone. Eleven players scored Friday night in a loss to Birmingham.
“If it’s a close game, we’ve got to play the best players,” Nakasone said. “But I’ve been kind of breaking it up. I feel that if the opportunity permits, I’d like to get everybody into the game.”
Staff writers John Lynch and John Ortega contributed to this notebook.