Jerry McIlvaine, the most successful baseball coach in the history of South Torrance High, has been named to replace Othon Herrera, who resigned less than two weeks after being named to the position.
Herrera, 27, a former prep coach in the Whittier area, was hired as South's coach on Dec. 9. He was met with immediate resistance from a parents' group that favored hiring Cliff Malsi, who coached the junior varsity team last season.
"It was made very clear to me that the parents wanted to have another individual become the head coach," said Herrera, who resigned Dec. 19.
Herrera said he met with South's players on two occasions, the second time to work on the baseball field.
"The kids were great," he said. "They couldn't wait to pull enough weeds. Everything else that took place after that just went downhill. But that's no reflection on the student-athletes they have.
"I wanted to dedicate my time to building a program in order to help young student-athletes. But in order to make that possible, the benefit between student-athletes, parents and any coach must be mutually felt."
South Athletic Director Roger Bryant said the parents' group, unhappy with the decision made by school administrators, complained about Herrera's hiring to the Torrance school board and other district officials.
An announcement that McIlvaine had been hired was made at the South football banquet Dec. 21. McIlvaine, 60, who is now retired as a teacher, coached South to seven league baseball titles from 1958 to 1977.
"I'm excited about getting back on the field," he said. "I've always said coaching would be fun if you didn't have to spend all day teaching too. I want to make it an enjoyable situation for (the players). There's a lot of talent there. I'm looking forward to it."
McIlvaine said he has encountered no resistance from the parents' group. Malsi is no longer a part of the South program.
McIlvaine was considered the leading candidate to become South's coach when interviews started in October. Shortly thereafter, however, he withdrew his name because of personal reasons. He reconsidered after being contacted last month by South Principal John Schmitt.
After coaching South's baseball team for 20 years, McIlvaine returned as an assistant to Roger Gurich in 1984 and helped guide the Spartans, led by shortstop Chris Donnels (New York Mets), to the Southern Section 4-A Division title.
McIlvaine said two players from that team--former pitcher Larry Johnson and first baseman Greg Hokuf--have agreed to be varsity assistants.
Bob Grant, who coached South the past two seasons, resigned to become an assistant at El Camino College.