LA CAÑADA — Over the course of 28 years, La Cañada High boys’ basketball Coach Tom Hofman has certainly enjoyed his share of success.
Perhaps it was fitting then that on an evening in which the Spartans’ leader had an opportunity to lock down his 600th career victory, his team would pass effectively, shoot wisely and defend tenaciously, all tenets of a Tom Hofman team throughout the decades, in a 73-62 victory over visiting La Salle in the nonleague finale Friday evening.
“To be honest, it’s always been about the kids, the team,” Hofman said. “I’ve never really enjoyed this type of attention and I’m relieved it’s over. It has been special, though.”
PHOTOS: La Canada boys basketball coach Tom Hofman wins 600th game
Hofman was presented a pair of plaques after the game in commemoration of the victory and in celebration of career that includes a 600-186 record, a 237-33 mark within the Rio Hondo League, 21 league titles, four CIF Southern Section divisional championship game appearances, two divisional crowns and two runner-up finishes at the CIF State Division III Regional Tournament.
“It does sound kind of corny, but Tom has always said it’s not about him, he doesn’t like the limelight. He wants his team do well and that’s what he always been about,” Spartans athletic director Craig Franzen said. “This is really family. I know that’s what everyone says family, family, but that’s the case with Tom. This is as big for him as it is for the school.”
Hofman’s Spartans concluded the nonleague portion of the season with a 10-5 mark and will begin pursuit for league title No. 22 as Rio Hondo League play opens Wednesday with a home game versus South Pasadena at 7 p.m.
“I had an idea that I needed somewhere around 10 wins this season to get to 600, but I really wasn’t sure and we didn’t talk about it [until recently],” Hofman said.
As for the game, it appeared the Spartans were in a no-contest, as they hit 10 of 20 three-point attempts in the first half in racing out to a 45-29 advantage.
The first quarter proved particularly damaging to La Salle (5-11), which wasn’t exactly in a celebratory mood.
“Hey, I have much respect for Tom Hofman and I wanted him to get his 600th win too — just not tonight,” said Lancers first-year Coach Ernest Baskerville, who was previously at Providence. “They shot lights-out in the first quarter. I thought it was an even game after that, but the deficit was just too big.”
La Cañada forced six turnovers and led, 22-6, after a four-foot floater from Jacob Brown (12 points and eight rebounds) with 12 seconds remaining and eventually led, 22-9, after eight minutes in.
“Obviously I didn’t see most of the 600 wins,” Brown quipped. “But I have five siblings that have [come through] La Cañada and they all know coach. This was cool.”
The Spartans took their biggest advantage of 56-33 midway through the third quarter on 12-footer from Brown.
La Salle did attempt to rally and eventually closed to within 55-43 with 1:24 remaining in the third on a jumper from Joel Akobian.
The Spartans answered back, though, with jumpers from Brown and Koko Kurdoghlian to close out the quarter with a 59-44 advantage.
“This is a great accomplishment for the school and the program,” said Kurdoghlian, who led all scorers with 20 points, 12 rebounds and three steals. “How many places have coaches that have stayed around as long as coach? This is amazing.”
La Salle made one last charge and closed within 66-56 with 2:38 remaining in the fourth, but never cut any deeper into its deficit.
Conor Williams led the Lancers with 17 points, 16 of which came in the first half.
“I was really happy with our defense. We identified who their best player was and attacked, especially in the second half,” Hofman said. “That’s the type of defense I like to see.”
La Cañada also forced 15 turnovers, while committing just six.
A good portion of the team’s offensive success was also due to guard Dan Jun, who finished with 11 assists and five points. Grant Arthur added 14 points for La Cañada, which also received 11 points from Kevin Depriest.
“I wasn’t here when Tom was hired, but enjoyed 16 years of working with him and it’s been an absolute pleasure,” said former Spartans athletic director Randy Boal, who was in attendance. “Tom has always been about the boys and has always been about class. We’ve all shared in his success and he deserves the recognition.”