Ammann loves job

There never was any moment when Ken Ammann "decided" he wanted to be a coach. In a way, it was always a given, it was in his blood.

Ammann's parents taught and coached at Edison and Fountain Valley high schools, so it was natural for Ammann to find his way back to school after he completed his own education.

Even his time as a kid when he roamed the sidelines as a ball boy for Edison football games along with future NFL quarterback Todd Marinovich was an experience from which he learned.

After bouncing around a few different places as an assistant coach, he landed at Concordia University in Irvine in 2001 as the school's new men's head basketball coach, and the rest is school history.

Ammann got his 300th career win on Jan. 24 with a victory over Point Loma Nazarene, a notable achievement, but "it doesn't get me excited," Ammann said. "It's just a number."

Ammann does get excited when reflecting on his time at Concordia, now in his 11th season running the program, when he thinks about the relationships he's formed with his players and his assistant coaches.

"They say in order to be a successful coach you need great players, and that's true, but I think No. 1 is having a coaching staff that you get along well with," Ammann said. "I've had great assistants, and I've gotten incredible support from the administration here at Concordia."

Those relationships, when they're good, breed success, Ammann says, and it's hard to argue with him.

In his 10 seasons to date, he has won one NAIA national championship and taken the Eagles to the national championship game two other times. Concordia has won the always-tough Golden State Athletic Conference title four of the past five seasons, and his teams have qualified for the 32-team national tournament in eight of 10 seasons.

Ammann was the NAIA national coach of the year in 2003 and was the GSAC coach of the year three times (2007, '10, '11), and his teams have averaged 28.4 wins per season.

Ammann set the bar high for himself early, winning the NAIA national championship in just his second season in 2002-03. That year, the Eagles went 36-4, winning more games than any men's basketball team at any collegiate level.

With all the success his teams have had, though, he said his most memorable season was one that doesn't stand out among the others. They were 21-12, but what that year special was that it was Ammann's first as a head coach.

After graduation from Stanford in 1991, Ammann was an assistant at San Jose State (1993-94), Canada College (1995-96), Pepperdine (1997-99) and Azusa Pacific (2000-01) before landing at Concordia.

"It was my first team as a head coach, and it was a magical season," Ammann said. "All of us came from different places, everyone was just so excited. It's something you couldn't recreate, the newness, the innocence, the excitement."

Ammann concedes the 2003 team was his best team because "ultimately, that team got it done," he said.

But he said last year's team probably was more talented, a team that went 19-1 in winning the GSAC before losing in the quarterfinals of the national tournament.

"The 2003 team was probably the toughest, and I think those are the teams that can have the best chance to win," Ammann said. "When you are so talented, sometimes you play mediocre and still win, and you don't learn as much from that."

This year's Eagles, Ammann says, are tough. And it's a good thing, because the GSAC this season is similarly tough.

"In 13 years I've never seen so much parity in the league," Amman said. "Biola is probably playing the best right now, and they're in sixth place. They've beaten us twice."

Concordia was 19-5 overall, including 9-4 in conference, putting them in a three-way tie for second place going into Saturday's game against Azusa Pacific. Westmont (10-3) was in alone in first, and Biola (7-6) in sixth, the two schools sandwiching Concordia, Azusa Pacific, Point Loma and The Masters in the conference standings before Saturday's games.

The Eagles, who were ranked No. 1 earlier this season and are now No. 16, have their work cut out for them the rest of the way. But if any team has that toughness, it's a team coached by Ammann, who is one of only two players ever to earn a basketball scholarship to Stanford out of a junior college.

Ammann initially attended Cal State Bakersfield, and after a coaching change at the school, he transferred to Santa Ana College. From there, Ammann earned his scholarship to Stanford, where he started every game for two years, was named an Academic All-American and made the Dean's List.

"Basketball has been great for my life," said Amman, 43, who added he loves Concordia but wouldn't rule out leaving at some point. "Division I is always an interesting thought, coaching at a higher level. But I do enjoy this level. This is the game at its purest, without all the other things you have to deal with the higher up you go."

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