Orris' Low-Key Approach Doesn't Keep Him From Top


Paul Orris, that janitor with a big broom, isn't high and mighty about his position.

Sure, he's the Corona del Mar boys' basketball coach, running one of the most consistent programs in Orange County. But there have been others.

Orris has followed Tandy Gillis and Jack Errion, his mentors, in the job. Even after nine seasons, it still feels as if he is housesitting.

"I took over a pretty good program," said Orris, The Times Orange County coach of the year. "It was already established. I've been the custodian. It's been my job to carry on the tradition."

It might be time for a promotion.

This season, the Sea Kings won their second Southern Section Division IV-AA championship. It was Orris' second section title, matching the late Errion.

Orris' teams have played in four section title games and reached the semifinals twice in nine seasons. Achievements that would lead to lofty status for most. But Orris refuses to perch on a pedestal.

"We already had a reputation here," Orris said. "I've just continued that reputation."

He learned it from the ground up.

Orris had never coached basketball before coming to Corona del Mar in 1971. His only basketball experience was four years as a reserve player at Long Beach Wilson and time in recreation leagues.

When Orris applied at Corona del Mar, he was told that the school needed a freshman basketball coach. He showed interest, hoping it would help him land the teaching job. It did and Orris became a coach.

His second year, Orris found himself coaching a freshman team with players who had not won a game in eighth grade. They lost their first four under him, then won 10 in a row and ended up league co-champions.

"They listened and did what they were told," Orris said.

As did Orris.

His first teacher was Gillis, who turned the Sea King varsity into a winner. Errion followed Gillis in 1976 and led Corona del Mar to Southern Section titles in 1977 and 1981.

"The first two years, I watched what Tandy did and tried to copy it," Orris said. "The hardest part was learning the intricacies of offense. But I had two pretty good mentors."

That showed when Orris took over the program. He has a 149-109 record in his nine seasons, playing against teams that usually have double the enrollment.

This season, the Sea Kings feasted on teams from higher divisions.

They twice defeated Woodbridge, which reached the II-AA semifinals. They defeated Santa Margarita, which reached the II-A semifinals. They defeated Estancia, which reached the III-A semifinals.

Those games helped Corona del Mar in its title run. The Sea Kings defeated Playa del Rey St. Bernard, 47-46, in the IV-AA championship game for their second title in three seasons.

Corona del Mar also defeated St. Bernard, 47-46, in the 1993 championship game.

Those low scores have been an Orris' trademark. He preaches tough defense and patient offense.

"Jack always told kids to rub some sweat on the other guy," Orris said. "He said to leave your mark. Let them know you were out there. If I'm remembered for anything, I hope it's for the rugged defense we have played."

The Sea Kings left their mark this season. And Orris has left his.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World