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Boys’ basketball: Steve Baik says he’s ‘excited’ to take over Fairfax program

Former Chino Hills Coach Steve Baik will take over at Fairfax.

Former Chino Hills Coach Steve Baik will take over at Fairfax.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Steve Baik is ready for his biggest challenge _ a season without the Ball brothers.

The former Chino Hills coach guided the Huskies to a 35-0 record last season, a state championship and was honored as the national coach of the year. Now he’s moving to Fairfax High, where he will take over for Harvey Kitani, who is stepping down after 35 seasons.

“I’m excited,” Baik said Saturday morning. “It will be a new experience that I’m looking forward to.”

Baik declined to comment on Friday when news broke about his hiring at Fairfax, because he didn’t want to take away the spotlight from Chino Hills, which had a celebration honoring the basketball team.

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Baik announced his resignation weeks ago after saying his commute from Altadena to Chino Hills (from 45 minutes to more than an hour depending on traffic) was too long for him and his family. He said the drive to Fairfax for his home is about 20 minutes.

Others insist he’s leaving because the Ball brothers’ father, LaVar, was heavily involved in the program and that he needed a break.

“For them to think that is so far from the truth,” he said. “People are going to speculate. I was considering not even coaching next year. We considered moving to Chino Hills. I built some amazing relationships with these families. LaVar and Tina are family in my book. These kids are like my own boys. All these kids are special. They’re players you dream about having.”

He has been friends with Kitani for years. Their mentors are the same _ former college coach Dave Yanai. When Kitani found out Baik had resigned, they talked.

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“Harvey didn’t know I was going to step down and I didn’t know he was either,” Baik said.

Baik doesn’t know what kind of style he’ll use at Fairfax after putting in a run-and-shoot style at Chino Hills, led by Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball.

“I’ve always been a coach who emphasizes players’ strengths,” he said. “I want to give these kids a chance to be successful.”

Asked what it will be like not coaching a Ball brother next season, Baik said, “Life will be different. I gave them a lot of freedom because they were talented enough to make the right decisions. It will be interesting. I’m excited.”

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The Fairfax assistants who have helped Kitani will be staying. They’ll be running things until Baik finishes up at Chino Hills the second week of June and other things get finalized.

Kitani will become the head coach at Rolling Hills Prep while retiring as a teacher.

For the latest on high school sports, follow @LATSondheimer on Twitter


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