It appears winning boys' basketball games at Glendora High is not enough to satisfy everyone. The more the Tartans win, the more troubles they seem to have.
Mike LeDuc took over the school's troubled program in 1986 and had instant success, leading the team to five league titles and two section championships. He resigned unexpectedly last May, three months after Glendora finished its best season with a 33-1 record and the Division II-AA title.
When he announced his resignation, LeDuc, 38, said he was tired and wanted to spend more time with his children. He has since acknowledged that there were other reasons for his sudden departure.
While LeDuc was telling his players he would not be back next season, three-year starter Adam Jacobsen left Glendora, enrolling at Crescenta Valley in La Crescenta. Although he has given few details about his transfer, he said earlier this week that he had become unhappy with the direction of the team and cited many personality clashes.
One of the state's most successful programs the past six years now finds itself with an identity crisis.
Longtime assistant Greg Plutko, 29, is in his first head-coaching job. Glendora returned only one player with any varsity experience this season, all-state junior guard Cameron Murray. And the Tartans (7-1) saw their 82-game home winning streak end last week in a 58-57 loss to Riverside Poly in the championship of the Tartans' holiday tournament.
Many blame the recent troubles on the Glendora community, which is one of the Southland's most supportive in terms of attendance. The Tartans sell out almost every home game and draw well on the road. During the section, regional and state tournaments, the school usually brings 5,000 or more fans. But some supporters are upset because Glendora has not won a state championship.
"There is a tradition here now, so certainly there is some pressure to win," said Plutko, who graduated from nearby La Verne Damien. "But we're working hard not to worry about that. A lot of the pressure is self-imposed."
Plutko said incidents of trouble stemming from parents of players and community members are isolated and have been blown out of proportion. But he acknowledges that one of his first duties as coach was to open better communication lines between the team and those parties.
Glendora's enthusiasm for its basketball team started in 1986, when sophomore forward Tracy Murray broke into the starting lineup. Murray, who went on to play at UCLA and is now with the Portland Trail Blazers, was known for his ability to sink three-point shots.
Murray, the Baseline League's most valuable player three years in a row, set Southern Section records for most points in a career (3,053) and season (1,505). As a senior, he helped lead the team to the State Division II title game in 1989.
His ability to score resulted in large crowds and a following that has dwindled very little since.
One thing Murray could not do for Glendora was lead it to a section championship. The Tartans did not win their first section title until 1990, with a team of unknowns.
Glendora added a second crown last year, but this time sophomore guard Cameron Murray was in the lineup. Cameron, the younger brother of Tracy, is a 5-foot-11 shooting guard who has played impressively since he joined the team for the 1990-91 season.
Although freshmen rarely start on the varsity, the younger Murray quickly found a place on the team.
Murray had to battle Jacobsen for scoring honors. Jacobsen was voted the league MVP in 1991 and the two shared the honor last season. But increasingly tired of sharing the spotlight with Murray, the senior player transferred to Crescenta Valley.
"Last year was not fun for me at all," said Jacobsen, who recently signed a letter of intent to attend Pacific. "I felt the coaches wouldn't let me play my game and were holding me back.
"Coach LeDuc tried to make my role a lot more limited than I wanted it to be," he said.
"It was hard to share the spotlight, but that problem certainly could've been handled better than it was."
Jacobsen, the section's career leader in three-point shots, said the decision to transfer was his and "something I had thought about for the past couple of years."
Garr Jacobsen, a booster club officer at Glendora and Adam's uncle, said the relationship between his nephew and Murray was more a case of parents getting too involved.
"Everyone still asks me why Adam left, and I really don't know what to say," Garr said. "They still can't believe he wanted to leave. I don't think it was so much Adam and Cameron, but the parents who didn't always agree with the way the team was run. That certainly was a factor in why Coach LeDuc ended up resigning."
The elder Jacobsen acknowledged that the community takes a great interest in the basketball team, but denies it places undue pressure on the coaches and players. Jacobsen said because Glendora is a one-high school community, there is a small-town flavor.
The booster club raises about $25,000 per year for the team. It raises money through Century Club memberships and the sale of the team calendar, which features players standing by a variety of local businesses.
"You can't go anywhere around here without seeing one of those calendars hanging inside a store or restaurant," Garr Jacobsen said.
The enthusiasm for the basketball team intensified after LeDuc was hired away from league-rival Damien in 1986. Plutko, who coached the junior varsity at Damien, moved to Glendora with LeDuc. The two brought immediate organization to a team that lacked direction.
While LeDuc was busy whipping the varsity into shape, Plutko concentrated on building up the junior varsity and freshmen teams.
"Our first season here, only three kids showed up for the junior varsity team," said Plutko, the son of former Southern Section Commissioner Ray Plutko.
"So I told each player to bring a friend back with him the next day. By the end of the season, we had a whole team."
The numbers are high now for all levels. Plutko said 50 players tried out for 16 spots on the freshmen team and 30 went out for the junior varsity.
LeDuc and Plutko also directed the community's youth basketball league, which has tripled in size in six years. The league's three different divisions have between 12 and 14 teams each, with hundreds of kids practicing for the chance to someday make the high school varsity.
Other communities are looking at Glendora's youth program and figuring out ways they can duplicate it. This makes the varsity coaching job even more visible.
Such success meant increased scrutiny for LeDuc from fans, parents, players and the media. But it was not that kind of pressure that led to the popular coach's resignation.
"A lot of the expectations on myself were put there by me," said LeDuc, who is still the athletic director at Glendora. "To maintain the quality we enjoyed, I had to really push myself. Other people expected a lot out of me too, but most were very good to me.
"I didn't step down because I was burned out," he said. "I think I may coach again one day. I just need to do it with a different frame of mind and in a different place."
Plutko, who said that he had wanted to be a head coach since he was in the fourth grade, is not worried about what is expected of him at Glendora. Although he initially decided to resign with LeDuc, he changed his mind a few weeks later.
Although LeDuc interviewed a few replacement candidates, he stopped accepting resumes when Plutko said he wanted the job.
"It was Greg's job for the asking," he said. "He was a top-notch varsity assistant and had been with the program for a number of years. I knew hiring him meant a very smooth transition."
Plutko's first task was to improve communication between the coaching staff and parents. A newsletter was started that reports on all of the team's happenings and why certain things are done. He also increased his visibility with the junior varsity and freshman teams.
Plutko said he knew what was expected of him when he accepted the job, and he also knew that certain minor changes needed to be made.
"Mike and I are great friends and I still talk with him and seek advice everyday," Plutko said.
"But sometimes when you're running the show, you're too busy to objectively look at things that need to be improved. Hopefully, I can make a difference in a few small areas."
The pressure to win is still there, and Plutko's first loss as a varsity coach was doubly tough because it ended the team's home winning streak. But he vows to be the best coach he can and not worry as much about winning.
"One of my goals is to develop a new direction with this team," he said. "I'm glad I have the opportunity to do it at Glendora."
Top 20 Boys' Basketball Poll
The Times' top 20 high school boys' basketball poll, with teams from the City and Southern sections.
'91-'92 School Sect. Div. Rec. 1. Mater Dei SS I-A 34-2 2. Dominguez SS II-AA 19-8 3. Artesia SS II-A 29-4 4. Crenshaw City 4-A 19-5 5. Morningside SS III-A 25-6 6. JW North SS II-AA 27-4 7. Fremont City 4-A 31-4 8. Hunt. Beach SS I-A 18-11 9. Lynwood SS I-AA 25-7 10. N. Hollywood City 3-A 26-2 11. Muir SS II-A 20-9 12. Capo Valley SS I-AA 30-4 13. LB Poly SS I-AA 16-15 14. Manual Arts City 4-A 19-6 15. Cres. Valley SS II-AA 30-4 16. Pasadena SS I-A 19-9 17. LB Jordan SS I-AA 24-7 18. Cajon SS II-AA 28-2 19. Washington City 4-A 20-6 20. S. Margarita SS III-AA 18-8
Players to Watch
A look at some of the Southland's top high school boys' basketball players.
NAME SCHOOL HT. POSITION Orie Benjamin JW North 6-7 Forward Stais Boseman Morningside 6-4 Guard Travon Carmichael Fontana 6-5 Forward James Cotton St. John Bosco 6-5 Forward Austin Croshere Crossroads 6-9 Forward Donminic Ellison Morningside 6-0 Guard Robert Foster Fairfax 6-4 Guard Jelani Gardner St. John Bosco 6-5 Guard Ed Gray JW North 6-3 Guard Adam Jacobsen Crescenta Valley 6-2 Guard Avondre Jones Artesia 6-11 Center Richard Mandeville La Canada 6-11 Center Monte Maraccini SO Notre Dame 6-5 Forward Cameron Murray Glendora 6-1 Guard Charles O'Bannon Artesia 6-7 Forward Damon Ollie North Hollywood 6-5 Forward Jacque Vaughn Muir 6-0 Guard Miles Simon Mater Dei 6-4 Guard Nathan Ware Lynwood 6-7 Forward Eric Wright South Gate 6-3 Guard