Stipp Doing Double Duty : Prep basketball: Santa Ana Valley girls' coach also takes over boys' team when its coach resigns.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Talk about walking into a buzz saw.

As if Santa Ana Valley girls' basketball Coach Kevin Stipp didn't have enough to worry about, Athletic Director Leon Smith named Stipp the interim boys' basketball coach last week.

When boys' basketball coach Rich Prospero resigned for personal reasons, Stipp became the basketball coach at Santa Ana Valley.

After quietly helping the girls' team (11-5, 2-1 in league) to its best start in 15 seasons, Stipp has stepped into the spotlight of the boys' high-profile, high-pressure program.

Stipp inherits the seventh-ranked team in the county (11-7, 2-1). The team has a talent-laden roster--featuring highly touted juniors Olujimi Mann and Ike Harmon--and high expectations.

"Our goals are still the same," Stipp said. "This team wants nothing short of a (Southern Section) title; we're looking to play at The Pond.

"But basically, this is Rich's team. I'm just trying to sail the ship for the rest of the season. And I realize that for me, this is a no-win situation."

But Stipp's appointment was a no-brainer for Smith.

"Kevin was my No. 1 choice for the job," Smith said.

Stipp, a science teacher at Santa Ana Valley, is in his ninth season--six of those as a varsity assistant--with the basketball program. Assistants Lionel Horn, Frankie Oviedo and Paul Hoover also remained to help with the transition.

Horn is Stipp's assistant for the girls' basketball team, and Stipp commended Horn and the girls' team for their understanding.

"The girls' attitude has been great," Stipp said. "(Last week) Lionel was running some of the girls' practices for me. I felt a little guilty about that when I had to take care of some business for the boys and it cut into the girls' practice.

"I don't want to short-change them. It was never a consideration to leave the girls' team and I wouldn't have left them; I don't think that's right."

But doing the right thing has made Stipp's hectic schedule even more grueling.

Stipp wakes at 5:30 a.m. and is at school by 6:30. After teaching classes until 12:40 p.m., Stipp is back in his office getting ready for basketball practices or games. From 2 to 4 p.m. Stipp conducts practice.

After some fast food, it's off to the game of the night--the boys play on Wednesdays and Fridays and the girls on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Stipp returns home by 11:30 p.m. before it all starts again.

"I haven't had a decent meal in a week," Stipp said. "I haven't seen my 13-year-old daughter (Jessica) in a week. Before I took the job, my wife, Lois, and I discussed it. I mean, when you coach one team, you hardly ever get to see your family.

"But she supported me, and essentially, this will only be for four or five weeks. Then we'll see what happens."

Stipp said his appointment is a short-term solution, and the Santa Ana Valley athletic program has made no long-term decisions.

"I can only do my best, and that's all I can ask of the players," Stipp said.

"If it falls that I will be the boys' coach next year or the girls' coach next year, so be it. Whatever happens, it won't shake my confidence. It's a difficult situation and we're all trying to adjust."

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