Mater Dei Coach Geri Campeau remembers sitting across from Jeff Sink in a hotel lounge during a late December night after their teams had played in the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.
Campeau, a Mater Dei athletic director and assistant on the Monarchs' state championship team in 1996, swapped war stories with Sink, the Brea Olinda coach.
"Sitting down talking to Jeff Sink that night gave me an incredible amount of respect for him with the pressures he has to go through in the course of the season," Campeau recalled. "After listening to him, I realized I don't have it so bad. [Coaching at] Brea has pressures none of us can ever imagine."
And so it was that Campeau became a believer that at Brea, where winning state titles is the standard, Sink was setting a standard for coaching.
Sink, The Times Orange County's coach of the year, finally won a state title game that had proved so frustratingly elusive in his first three years as Brea coach.
His team went 33-1, surpassing his expectations with a squad that returned one starter. The other starters were two role players, a defensive-minded transfer and sophomore phenom who had yet to play a game in high school.
Before the season, Sink cautiously suggested that the Ladycats should be "one, two or three" in the Orange County rankings. In fact, there was a good case to be made that San Clemente should have begun the season ranked No. 1.
But Brea's only loss this season was to New York Christ the King, considered one of the top teams in the country. In that game, Brea was in it midway through the third quarter.
After that game, Sink, whose four-year record is 121-12, coached more than ever, partly because he says he owed it to his players and his staff. "Monkeys off our back," was the motto of this Brea team, whose seniors risked being the first four-year class since 1988 to not win a state title game.
Sink was in good company when it came to stellar coaching:
* Pete Bonny coached Marina to its first section championship with the player of the year and a mostly unknown supporting cast.
* Steve Dunmeyer, without an all-county player on the team, and hoping to finish at least third and make the playoffs, put Tustin among the top 10 and won a share of the Golden West League title.
* John Keating of Los Amigos (9-14) who took over a team that was winless last season. Los Amigos eventually lost 28 in a row, but won nine of its next 15 and qualified for the playoffs.
* Vincent Avitabile had four El Toro players averaging double digits in the latter part of the season, helping to provide the framework for upsets over Capistrano Valley and top-seeded La Crescenta Crescenta Valley in the Division I-AA playoffs.
* Kevin Kiernan guided Troy to a second-half lead over Brea Olinda in the II-AA title game, its first, and concurrently coached the Cypress College women's team into the Southern California playoffs with a third-place finish.
But it might be hard for them to be as prepared for any situation as Sink and Brea, where any loss is the prep news of the day.
According to Brea assistant Tony Matson, in preparing for Brea's 51-32 state championship victory last week over Redding Shasta, Sink made an early evening phone call to Matson and rattled off five scenarios he wanted to be prepared for at the next day's practice. Among them, said Matson: "What if Shasta is unconscious from the outside, what if Brea can't run with them, what if Lindsey Davidson gets in foul trouble."
The next night, Sink called again. This time, for the next day's practice, he had eight scenarios.
"I don't believe there is any situation this team has never discussed," Matson said. "We always have a default plan. We go into every game with two different game plans to win."