It's a Baptism by Fire for Hamilton, Servite

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A banner proclaiming Servite the 1990 State Division III boys' basketball champion hangs over the basket on the east side of the Friars' gymnasium and serves as a reminder of the team's past success for new Coach Scott Hamilton.

Hamilton, 28, who had no previous head coaching experience, has inherited one of the county's most successful programs.

Hamilton spent six seasons as an assistant under Coach Mick Cady at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and says he's well aware of the expectations at Servite.

"One of the attractions of this job is that Servite is a proven program that has enjoyed a lot of success in the past three years," he said. "I think this program can go to even greater heights. I think Servite can be one of the top five programs in Orange County, year in and year out."

But so far, Servite has looked like anything but one of the county's top teams. The Friars have won only one of their first six games heading into the third week of the season. Hamilton has a word of advice for Friar fans.

"Patience," he said. "I just put in a new offense in the fall. We're at a point now where most teams were last July. We're getting our baptism by fire, but one of my goals is to finish among the top four teams in the Sunset League."

Hamilton wasn't hired until June 6 and spent most of the summer evaluating his personnel. He held tryouts for the summer team and also spent time with the outgoing coach, Richard Smith, learning as much as he could about the players.

"We had practices starting at 6 a.m., three times a week, during the summer," Hamilton said. "Our won-loss record wasn't good, but I was encouraged by the kids' commitment to the program.

"I expected some feedback from the players with a new coach who was making some big changes. They had been very successful under Richard Smith. But they all responded very well to me and that was very encouraging."

Hamilton inherited a team with only one starter, forward Ryan Smith, returning and a point guard, Jamie Dunn, who started a couple games at the end of last season. He had four football players who were late joining the basketball team and a crop of promising newcomers from a freshman team that won 19 games last year.

Predictably, Servite struggled in the Savanna/Western tournament and the Tournament of Champions. Sometimes, Servite has had as many turnovers as points. But Hamilton isn't discouraged.

"We have some of the same resources as Mater Dei or Santa Margarita," he said. "We have a good financial base here in the county. The school has a strong reputation for academics and a good family base of boosters and supporters.

"I see no reason why this school shouldn't be successful. I attended private schools all through elementary and high school. I think it's an environment where you have a better chance to achieve success.

"It's an environment where you can grow and learn. It's the best environment for potential success."

Hamilton found success at Providence, a Catholic high school in Burbank, during his playing days. He was a 6-foot-2, all-league forward who decided to take the coaching route rather than play in college.

He attended Cal State Northridge where he enrolled in a theory of basketball coaching course and got his first job as an assistant freshman coach at Burbank Bellarmine-Jefferson.

"I think I learned much more about the game coaching than I ever did playing under a coach," he said. "When I took that class from (Northridge Coach) Pete Cassidy, I was hooked on coaching."

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