PROVIDENCE HIGH — Providence High and Athletic Director Andrew Bencze had a long and expansive list for what they hoped to find in a new boys' basketball coach.
Along with someone who had a wealth of experience and a track record of success, the administrators also wanted to fine an individual who was familiar with running a program at a small school, someone who was involved in the community and someone who is focused on helping athletes thrive in the classroom, as well as on the basketball court.
After a search that yielded a slew of applicants, Bencze said he is convinced he has found all those characteristics in Ernest Baskerville — the new Pioneers' coach.
"When we first saw his résumé, what we were really excited about is that he coached at a small school with an academic focus, and he was there for 12 years," said Bencze, who also runs the Providence girls' basketball program. "We wanted to have someone who can come in and be loyal and invest himself in the program, and that's the kind of person that we think we have in Ernest."
Bencze said he was also impressed with the feedback that he received when taking to individuals who know, or have worked with, Baskerville.
"Everyone who I talked to about him said that he was a very high-character guy," Bencze said. "They all described him as a genuine guy who is honest and who has a lot of integrity. That's a great starting point when you're talking about someone who is your next coach."
Baskerville, who spent last season as an assistant coach for the College of the Canyons men's team, built a successful winning program at Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies in West L.A. He coached the team to four league championships from 1997-2009 and had a record of 178-168.
During the 2008-09 season, LACES captured the L.A. City Small Schools Championship and Baskerville was named the coach of the year.
Baskerville, who works in the law field at the Cochran Firm, had to leave LACES after suffering a serious injury. Because his rehabilitation from the injury took up so much of his time, he decided to turn over the program to one of his assistants.
"I had to rehab for 32 weeks, and it was crazy," he said. "My thing was if I'm not able to give a program my all, I just can't do it. I loved my program and I didn't want to leave, but I thought it was best to let my assistant take over and let him run the program."
That assistant is still running the program at LACES, while another of Baskerville's former assistants is coaching at powerhouse Gardena Serra.
Coming from a small school, Baskerville said Providence is a perfect fit for him.
"I was looking for a place that is similar to where I was, and I was looking for a place that stresses academics," he said. "Providence has a great reputation for turning out some really good students. What I also liked about Providence is the administration, and how much they care about the programs. When you have administrative backing, as a coach, it means a lot."
Baskerville will take over a program that had mixed results last season. Under former coach Cary Many, the Pioneers went 13-12 and placed fourth in the Liberty League. Many ran a run-and-gun, shoot-first offense that didn't require much defense.
Under Baskerville, however, the Pioneers will be introduced to a more defensive-minded game plan.
"I told the guys I'm coming here to help you play some defense," Baskerville said. "Some of them were really excited about what we want to do. We want to play tough defense and try and force a lot of turnovers. We want to make teams work for what they get. I truly believe that defense creates offense. Defense has to be our staple."
Providence returns a successful player in senior Patrick Gonzalez, who had a record-breaking season in 2010-11. He broke records in everything from points in a game (52), to free throws made (134), to most three-pointers in a game (11) to most three-pointers in a season (137).
According to maxpreps.com. Gonzalez ended the season with the highest scoring average and the highest three-point average (six a game) among players in California. He averaged 37.8 points and 11.5 rebounds a game. In addition, along with scoring 869 points, Gonzalez tallied 30 or more points in 19 game and 40 or more in 10 games. On the school's career scoring list, Gonzalez has 1,468 points and trails Barry Dabbaghian (1,555) by just 87 points.
"I am really looking forward to working with the guys, and I think we're going to have some talent," Baskerville said.