Sailors close to hiring new boys' basketball coach

The Newport Harbor High boys' basketball program is close to hiring a new coach, said Michael Vossen, the school's principal, in a text message on Friday.

"Nothing finalized yet, but hope to be wrapped up by next week," Vossen said.

The school has moved forward since it reinstated the program last month after suspending it for three weeks because of criminal threats made against then-coach Larry Hirst and his wife.

Newport Harbor has three finalists to replace Hirst, said sources close to the situation, who asked for anonymity.

Sources said two of the candidates are Bob Torribio and Jason Carey, both of whom have ties to Newport Harbor and Hirst. Torribio and Carey served as assistants under Hirst last season, Hirst's 16th and final season in charge of the Sailors.

Vossen did not confirm or deny that Torribio and Carey are in the running to take over the Sailors.

"When I am ready to announce, I will announce," Vossen said via text in response to whether Torribio and Carey were two of the three finalists. "Interview process is supposed to be confidential."

Torribio and Carey did not return calls on Friday.

Torribio, a 1995 Newport Harbor graduate, has invested more time with the Sailors than Carey, the junior varsity coach last season. Torribio is also a teacher at Newport Harbor and Carey is a walk-on coach.

Torribio has stepped in for Hirst three times in the past four seasons after Hirst took a leave of absence for reasons ranging from taking care of his health to spending time with his family.

Torribio has coached at his alma mater for the past 11 seasons, seven in which he was Hirst's right-hand man. This past season, he became the interim coach before Newport Harbor's second Sunset League game on Jan. 11, when Hirst stepped down for the remainder of the season because of personal reasons.

Torribio led the Sailors to their only two league victories, a 64-57 upset of champion Los Alamitos and 50-41 win against Marina. Newport Harbor finished near the bottom of league at 2-8, only Marina finished worse, and the Sailors missed the CIF Southern Section playoffs for the third time in four seasons.

Torribio's longest stint at the helm at Newport Harbor was during the 2008-09 season, which Hirst took off completely. Hirst went on a one-year coaching sabbatical to be with his family. The Sailors wound up winless in league and compiled a 3-21 overall record, one of the worst seasons in the program's history.

That marked the end of 12 straight postseason appearances for the Sailors and the beginning of four straight seasons in which they haven't produced an overall winning record. Their record in league play during that time is 6-34.

The JV program finished with a better record in league play under Carey the past two seasons.

Carey's best league finish was two seasons ago. The Sailors went 11-1 and shared the league title with Huntington Beach.

Carey has varsity head coaching experience, having spent time at La Quinta. He took over at the school in 1999 after spending six seasons as the JV coach at Edison.

Carey went on to serve as a varsity assistant at Fountain Valley in the early 2000s. The Barons compete against Newport Harbor in league.

If Carey is the Sailors' next hire, he will get to coach against the Barons and his alma mater, Edison, on the varsity level.

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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