Corona del Mar High has completed the search for its next boys’ volleyball coach.
The school announced on Tuesday that in-house candidate Sam Stafford will succeed longtime coach Steve Conti.
Stafford served as an assistant on Conti’s staff the past five seasons. A former setter for the Sea Kings and a 2007 graduate, Stafford has been a coach in the CdM boys’ volleyball program since 2009.
This is Stafford’s first varsity head coaching job.
“I was honored just to be considered [for] a program like this, one of the premier programs in the county and the country,” said Stafford, who is 29 years old. “Obviously, the success we’ve had the last couple of years, I think it makes it a pretty unique job with the student-athletes that we get.
“I’m obviously really excited to get started.”
Sea Kings athletic director Don Grable stated upon Conti’s resignation that the school would look at its on-campus options first to fill the coaching vacancy. Stafford, who is a physical education instructor at CdM, fit that mold.
“We try to reward loyalty of people who have worked consistently at our school,” Grable said. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. That, to me, is a big thing. We know what he’s about.
“The best way that you can prove yourself is through your actions, and Sam has already done that.”
Stafford noted that he saw the benefit in being an on-campus coach, too. He said that he would have an open-door policy, allowing his athletes to communicate with him throughout the school day in addition to team activities.
Apart from the change at the top, Stafford said that he will try to keep the same coaching staff the program has had for the past few years.
Conti gave an endorsement to his former player and assistant, saying, “Coach Stafford is a good fit for the CdM boys’ volleyball program. As a Corona del Mar [graduate] and boys’ volleyball alumnus, he understands the culture of the community and the boys’ volleyball program.”
Stafford’s brothers, Charlie and Jack, also played volleyball at CdM.
The Battle of the Bay plays a big role in the lives of many of the student-athletes who grow up on the Back Bay. For Stafford, it was no exception. He called Conti and current Newport Harbor girls’ volleyball coach Dan Glenn two of his foremost mentors as a coach.
Stafford has coached on both sides of the Back Bay rivalry. He has spent time with CdM (2009-present), Newport Harbor (2009-2014) and the Balboa Bay Volleyball Club (2009-present).
Conti stepped down after leading the Sea Kings to 540 wins, 19 league titles, seven CIF Southern Section championships and four CIF Southern California Regional titles during his 23 years. His last season saw CdM go 34-4 overall, claim the Pacific Coast League, CIF Southern Section Division 1 and CIF SoCal Regional Division I crowns, and finish the year as the No. 1 team in the nation.
“I’d like to have as much success [as Conti],” Stafford said, “but do it in my own way.”
The Sea Kings will be returning just one starter from last year in senior outside hitter Adam Flood, a USC commit. Having already worked with the rest of the roster, Stafford is ready to hit the ground running.