Three months after he resigned as a coach and teacher with the Los Angeles Unified School District, former Cleveland High basketball Coach Marc Paez is back doing both--at Banning High in Wilmington.
Paez, 30, who left Cleveland in June after leading the Cavaliers to a 21-6 record and into the City Section 4-A Division semifinals in his only season with the team, was hired last week.
Paez, who cited external distractions and the pressure to win at Cleveland as prime reasons for resigning, said he does not expect to have such problems at Banning.
"Obviously, time will tell, but I suspect that it'll be closer to what I hope to find at the high school level," Paez said. "I anticipate less off-the-court distractions. It should be closer to what I think high school basketball is all about."
Paez replaces Gary Cain, who coached the Pilots for four seasons and will focus on his duties as a counselor. Banning is a member of the City 4-A Division and competes in the Southern Pacific Conference against teams such as Dorsey and Crenshaw. The Pilots finished 11-13 overall in 1989-90.
Paez said he had turned down several offers--including coaching posts with professional teams in Ireland and Turkey--before Banning Principal Augie Herrera called last month.
"Ireland wasn't exactly a hotbed for European basketball," he said. "And besides, the money was marginal."
He said he was seriously considering accepting the position in Turkey until Iraq invaded Kuwait. Turkey borders Iraq.
Banning contacted him at the recommendation of City Section Commissioner Hal Harkness, whom Herrera had contacted to discuss prospective coaches.
"From what I know about him and from the endorsements from (Cleveland Principal Ida Mae Windham), I thought that if somebody of his caliber and character was available, we should try to keep him around," Harkness said.
Paez said he welcomes the job of building a program that has struggled. Banning, a perennial City power in football, traditionally has fielded .500 teams in basketball.
"It's a completely different set of challenges," he said. "The goal at Cleveland was to maintain that tradition and take it a step further. But just because we don't have the same kind of talent here that we had at Cleveland doesn't mean I won't put in the same kind of effort."