The call came last September. Jeff Young picked up the telephone and heard a familiar voice on the other end of the line.
It was Brad Holland, an acquaintance and basketball coach at University of San Diego. Holland wanted Young to join his staff as an assistant.
The offer was more than tempting for a man who dreams of making the jump to Division I college basketball.
Only one thing stood in Young's way--the job he had as head coach at Chaminade High.
"It was two weeks into the school year," he recalled. "We had already started our fall practice."
Young told Holland he would have to sleep on it.
"I had some mixed emotions," he said.
These days, Young is exactly where he wants to be, guiding Chaminade into the second round of the state tournament at 7:30 tonight. His team will play at University of San Diego High, across from the university where he might have spent this season.
Win or lose, the Eagles have already amassed a 28-1 record, collecting a league and section title along the way.
"I never want to sound cocky," the coach said. "But I knew we'd be good."
Young is an ardent student of the game, a man who recites the lessons he learned while playing for Mike Dunlap at Cal Lutheran, a man who eagerly talks of pumping John Wooden for information during a summer basketball camp.
At 28, he is unapologetically ambitious.
"I don't think it's greedy or selfish," he said. "You should always aspire to a higher level."
For now, the Eagles bear the unmistakable imprint of his basketball philosophy. They play a thinking man's game, probing the defense for a weak spot, flexible enough to alter their offensive attack.
One night, they will push the ball inside. The next, they will shoot from outside.
"He has taught us a lot," freshman center Scott Borchart said. "He takes the time to teach his players things that other coaches don't."
Selflessness tops the list. Young has persuaded talented seniors such as Scott Long and Justin Stewart to pass the ball more, thereby passing up big statistics.
"We love it when somebody scores 25 or 30 points, but it's even better when you can look in the box score and see the whole team played well," Stewart said.
Balanced play has made for lopsided scores. Chaminade has won four of its five postseason games by 30 points or more.
"They're actually playing better as the more important games come along," said Greg Hilliard, coach at rival Harvard-Westlake. "That's a good sign."
Chaminade's success has similarly impressed Holland, a former Laker and all-conference guard at UCLA.
"Just being around L.A. and being familiar with different programs, you know Jeff has done a great job," Holland said. "He's got a good basketball mind and he's good with people."
Last fall, a San Diego assistant quit the team abruptly to become video coordinator with the San Antonio Spurs. Holland did not hesitate to pick up the phone.
"I called Jeff immediately and offered him the job," he said. "That's how much I think of him."
It wasn't like getting a call from Bobby Knight or Roy Williams. But Young liked Holland, respected the program and thought it offered him a shot at the advancement he coveted.
"I want to be coaching at that level," Young said. "I enjoy the filmwork. I enjoy the recruiting side, the idea of going out and selecting your players."
That comment might rankle some of Chaminade's opponents, who have privately grumbled that the Eagles' starting five includes players from distant Camarillo and Thousand Oaks.
However, because there are no private schools with high-profile athletic programs in the Conejo Valley, talented players from the area often end up on San Fernando Valley campuses.
It was the players who ultimately convinced Young to stay. The turning point came when he told Stewart about the offer.
Both coach and player arrived at Chaminade four years ago.
Stewart said: "Coach, we started out together. You're a senior. You can't leave early. You have to finish with me."
The plea struck a chord, evoking the theme of loyalty Young has preached to his players.
"I made it a building block of this program," Young said. "My players called me on it. They told me, 'We did what you said. Now you've got a chance to show us you are loyal, too.' "
Young called Holland with the news.
"Even though he turned me down, I have the utmost respect for Jeff not only as a coach but as a person," Holland said. "He told me, 'I want to see this team through.'
"After I saw his team beat Bishop Montgomery [in the Southern Section Division III-A championship game], I understood what he was talking about. That's a very good team."
The Eagles' most recent victory came at home against Barstow on Tuesday night. Chaminade was heavily favored, but the game took a rough, physical turn in the early going.
Young reacted characteristically, throwing off his jacket, prowling the sidelines in a black turtleneck and brown slacks. He quickly drew a technical foul.
"He has a very fiery, aggressive style," Hilliard said. "He works the sideline, works it very hard."
Said Long: "I hope the refs don't take it personally. That's just coach. He gets a little excited."
Chaminade soon drew away, opening a 40-point lead in the third quarter.
Young could sit back on the bench, sipping bottled water, laughing occasionally.
He looked relaxed, like a man who insists it will take just the right offer to pry him from Chaminade. He did not look like a man who has any regrets.
"I get to stand out here in the month of March and watch my team play," he said. "What do you think?"