After 30 seasons as the Palisades High boys’ basketball coach, Jerry Marvin has decided to retire.
Marvin, who has coached at Palisades since the school opened in 1961, said he is leaving not because he no longer loves the game, but because the game--and athletics in general--has gotten out of control.
“The only thing I’ve been crazy about is basketball,” said Marvin, 61, who led the 1969 Palisades team to a Los Angeles City championship and finished with a career record of 284-130 at the school.
But he said that something has gone terribly wrong with basketball when high school coaches have to resort to recruiting players in order to compete and high school players think they are going to play their way into million-dollar professional contracts.
Marvin said that he was once coaching a team in a summer tournament when he was approached by a man who asked him if Palisades needed a point guard for the upcoming season.
Marvin said he jokingly replied that Palisades could use several players, but realized that the man was serious when he said he would provide Palisades with players in return for a coaching job.
Recruiting of junior high players for high school teams and of high school players from one high school team to another is rampant, according to Marvin.
“I’ve had kids getting calls in the middle of the season from other coaches,” he said. “Coaches are dating players’ moms (to attract players) or promising (the players) sweat suits or shoes or trips to (summer) tournaments.”
He said another coach once told him that high school teams “ought to releague on the basis of schools that recruit and those that don’t.”
Marvin said players’ attitudes toward coaches have changed since he played for his father, the late A.J. Marvin Sr., at University High in the late 1940s.
He said that when his dad, who was at University from 1931 to 1962, was coaching “kids thought the coach was God. My teams here were like that for years.”
In recent years, however, Marvin said he has had players telling him how to coach.
He has had players who refused to run laps at practice, transferred to other schools and came back to play against Palisades. “That has happened several times,” he said.
“I guess I agree with (University of Indiana Coach Bobby) Knight that the No. 1 thing ought to be obedience. But when you have kids from youth leagues who tell you that you can’t do this or that, it’s not good. It leads to a lot of trouble.
“You’ve got kids who are told they’re going to play in the NBA and they can’t make the B team. How are they going to fit into society? It’s tough on a coach, but it’s even tougher on the kids. I think athletics is really out of control.”
What matters, Marvin said, is working to bring out the chemistry in a team, getting players to know each other’s moves, getting them to resist taking a bad shot and pass to the open man instead.
Marvin said chemistry was a hallmark of his 1969 City champions, but it has also been evident on some of his teams that were not as successful.
It was relatively easy to achieve teamwork with his players in 1969, he said, because they had grown up in Pacific Palisades and had known each other all their lives. He said that it became tougher to get players to pull together after the Los Angeles Unified School District began busing students to high schools outside their attendance areas in the mid-1970s.
But he said that he has had teams that had harmony before and after busing.
“My 1990 jayvees had great chemistry and only a so-so record. Yet they played much better than their talent. But it’s easier to do it with jayvees; seniors who don’t play on the varsity think their lives are over.”
In 30 years at Palisades, Marvin has had two players who eventually played in the NBA, Kiki Vandeweghe of the New York Knicks and Steve Kerr of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Another one of his players, Derek Strong, was drafted last year by the Philadelphia 76ers but played professionally this season in Spain.
Three out of 300 or so is not a bad percentage, but Marvin is also proud of Chip Engelland, a City scoring champion at Palisades who didn’t play in the NBA but competed professionally in Canada.
But Marvin thinks his greatest satisfaction as a coach came in 1987, when senior basketball player Jeff Bronner received a scholar-athlete award at a banquet at a Westside hotel.
When Bronner, who played for UCLA as a walk-on and transferred to UC Riverside, walked to the head table to get his award, Marvin said, “I was crying. It was the proudest moment of my life.”
Marvin, who began coaching at Bell High in 1955 and was there for six years, has been a tough coach to defeat.
Yutaka Shimizu, coach at Granada Hills Kennedy High, remembers the strong rivalry between Palisades and Hamilton, where Shimizu coached for many years.
“Our teams were always competitive and had a lot of close games,” Shimizu said. “He had this offense that his father ran, the double post, and they ran it very well. They also shot the ball well, especially at the free-throw line.
“He has been around a long time, and (his retirement) will be a loss. He has contributed much to high school basketball, and his particular style was very identifiable.”
That style could easily be identified by Tom Anderson, University High boys’ tennis coach and former boys’ basketball coach. Anderson coached basketball at University from 1970 to 1984 and played for Marvin Sr. in the late 1950s.
Anderson said that Marvin Jr.'s teams “were much more predictable than most other teams because Jerry didn’t try to hide or surprise anybody with what he was doing. He believed, like John Wooden, that you ought to go ahead and do what you want to do.”
Anderson not only played in the offense run by both Marvins, but used the same attack--"a high-low double post and swing off the weak side"--when he first began coaching basketball at University.
“There are certainly more dynamic offenses around, but he got his kids to believe in what they were doing, which is the philosophy of a successful coach,” Anderson said. “He made it work, and I have a lot of respect for him.”
Marvin said that he still feels capable of producing teams that play as a unit, but that such teams would still have a tough time winning.
“Without recruiting, there is no way we (could) compete,” he said.