PREP NOTES WITH A TWIST

Boys hoops coach with 38 years at the helm resigns with a push from angry parents, good luck to Allyson Felix and Kelli White at the world track championships, and more from the best prep notes column in the state. Note to premium subscribers and to those thinking about becoming a premium subscriber: Football items are included in this story and some of our preseason football features will start being run as early as next week.

•PARENTS OUT OF CONTROL (LATEST EXAMPLE): Longtime coaches we've talked to in recent years seem to echo the same feeling: It's not the kids who've changed that much in recent years, but the parents. You also should see some of the outright hateful e-mails we've gotten from a parent when little Johnny, little Johnetta or their teams aren't picked as high as dear old Dad thinks they should be. They take it personally, as if we've looked at Johnny or Johnetta and decided we think they're no good. The reality is that little Johnny or his team wasn't ranked as high because of a lack of information or conflicting information, but Dad never wants to hear any of that. He'd rather attack and we can tell some of them do their venting on our message boards for many months later (which is fine because that's what message boards are for).

If I had to pick, some of the worst examples of parents being out of control in recent years have been in what they call the Lamorinda area of the San Francisco East Bay region. This would include Acalanes High of Lafayette, Campolindo High of Moraga and Miramonte High of Orinda. I've worked with free lance writer and coach Clay Kallam on the Student Sports FAB 50 girls basketball rankings for six years and he told me several parental involvement horror stories when he was assisting as a coach first at Campolindo and later at Acalanes. Both Campolindo and Acalanes lost very successful girls basketball head coaches, in part, because of upset parents.

The latest situation is perhaps the most sad and the result is that one of the winningest boys basketball coaches in state history has thrown up his hands and walked away from the school he's been at for 38 years. We're talking about Miramonte's Tom Blackwood, who resigned on June 26 to avoid battling a parent-led drive that he be fired. The parents have been reportedly angry because Blackwood's son, Chris, a sophomore last season at Miramonte, was able to play on the varsity as a freshman. Even though Chris averaged 17 points and six assists per game last season, the parents say it's nepotism and not ability that has given Chris Blackwood his notoriety. The younger Blackwood will transfer and play next season at Campolindo.

"I really felt that I had no other options," Blackwood told the Contra Costa Times. "I felt that I had been put in a corner where I could no longer coach the way I coach, and I wanted Chris to be in an environment where people support him."

Blackwood, who leaves the school with an overall record of 636-374 and is tied for second on the all-time state list for longest continuous years of boys basketball coaching at the same school, added that he had "no issues" with the Miramonte administration.

"They were supportive. I realized that I can't win, and I wanted to take the high road. I don't think (the opposing parents) could have further vilified me if I had given drugs to the kids, grabbed them and thrown them down, or any of the other things coaches have been fired for."

•PHELPS CASE LIKELY TO BE DISMISSED: Last week's Supreme Court decision that threw out a case against an alleged child molester because the alleged incident happened too long ago will likely result in charges being dropped against Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland boys basketball coach Mike Phelps. The state's winningest coach ever, Phelps was placed on administrative leave in January when an investigation of two counts against him for incidents in the 1960s was started by the Alameda County district attorney's office. Phelps was charged in February, but any further court proceedings were basically put on hold because attorneys knew the Supreme Court case was on the horizon. Phelps was never officially relieved of his duties as the O'Dowd coach and no other coach was officially hired, so he continued to get the wins on his coaching record as the Dragons advanced in the CIF North Coast Section and NorCal regional playoffs. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, the next step is to see how the O'Dowd administration will rule on whether they want Phelps to go back to being a fully-involved head coach.

•IT TAKES ONE TO BEAT ONE: Track superstar Allyson Felix from L.A. Baptist of Sepulveda will be going to the world championships later this summer in Paris, but the recent high school grad won't be going as the U.S. champion. Felix, who seemed on a roll after her 22.11 time in May in Mexico City and after a series of impressive sprints through the CIF state meet in June, finished third in the 200 at the U.S. championships on June 22 at Stanford. The winner of the race was Kelli White, a former California prep star herself at James Logan High of Union City. Kelli also won the U.S. title in the 100. At Logan, Kelli didn't generate the same type of attention as Marion Jones, Gail Devers, Angela Williams and Felix did during their prep careers. But she's becoming as much of an inspiration for dedication and hard work as anybody.

•COVER GIRL: Although it was only a small insert at the lefthand top corner, Allyson Felix has nevertheless become the eighth California prep to grace the cover of a regular Sports Illustrated issue while still a 9th to 12th grader. She was on the magazine's June 9, 2003 issue. Felix also is the cover story for the July/August issue of Student Sports Magazine. Previous SS Magazine covers have been graced by Marion Jones, Angela Williams and Kelli White. The seven others from Sports Illustrated, all full cover pictured, are: 1998 - Michele Kwan (Rim of the World, Lake Arrowhead) Ice Figure Skating; 1979 -- Tracy Austin (Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates) Tennis*; 1975 -- Tim Shaw (Wilson, Long Beach) Swimming; 1968 -- Mark Spitz (Santa Clara) Swimming; 1965 -- Marie Mulder (Foothill Jr. High, North Highlands) Track (9th grade); 1962 -- Donna de Varona (Santa Clara) Swimming; 1958 -- Chris von Saltza (Santa Clara) Swimming. *Note: Austin was also on the cover in 1976 when not even in the ninth grade yet.

•BOUND FOR CUBA: Too bad the La Jolla and Bonita Vista of Chula Vista football teams are playing each other in Cuba to start the season instead of playing teams from Cuba. It's not exacly a California vs. The World game, but the Vikings and Barons will be bringing the sport to a country in which many have never seen it before. The schools have been making plans for the exhibition game and trip for more than a year and the teams are scheduled to leave Tijuana on a flight to Havana on August 30. The last year an American-style football game was played in Cuba was in 1959, the same year in which communist leader Fidel Castro assumed control.

•CIF HOOPS AT ARCO AT LEAST UNTIL 2006: It's unknown which other venues made serious offers to the CIF state office to host the next three basketball championship weekends, but it was made very clear in a press release earlier this month that Sacramento's ARCO Arena may be the home for a long time to come. ARCO Arena, home of the Sacramento Kings of the NBA and the Sacramento Monarchs of the WNBA, was named as the host site for the next three CIF state championships, beginning with the 2004 event. ARCO Arena won out in a bidding process that included 28 different criteria and took more than three months to complete. It's likely that the Oakland Coliseum Arena and the San Jose Arena were among those in the running, as well as the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim. ARCO works very well for the CIF when several Sacramento area schools make it to the final weekend. That's what happened in 2001 when the games drew 24,003, the all-time high for the event. When Sacramento teams don't do well and there's no Jason Kidds or Cheryl Millers intriguing the masses, it's tough for the CIF to draw even close to 20,000 for its three sessions of games.

•GOLDEN POLE VAULTING: Ever see two national records in the same track event (boys and girls) at the same place within hours of each other? We did on June 15 at the Golden West Invitational in Sacramento and it was memorable in many ways. First, in the girls pole vault, Kira Costa from San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno cleared the bar at 13-8 1/2 to nip the previous national mark of 13-8 set in 2001 by Shayla Balentine, also a Californian, from Morro Bay. Then later in the boys pole vault it was Tommy Skipper of Sandy, Oregon, doing the honors. He had won the event with a clearance of 17-1 and immediately went for the meet record height of 18-0 1/2, which he made on his first attempt. It was Skipper's first ever time over the 18-0 barrier, but he wasn't done. He went for the national mark and got it by going over the bar at 18-3. Skipper broke the record of 18-2 1/2 set in 1999 by Eric Eschbach of Texas. He didn't seem that overcome by what he had done at the time, but it probably hit him emotionally later. Skipper had made setting the national record a personal goal ever since the death of his older brother, Art Jr., in a 2001 plane accident. Art Skipper Jr. happens to still be the national prep record holder in the javelin. The Golden West meet also was a showcase for James Logan of Union City sophomore hurdler Kevin Craddock as well as for Long Beach Poly junior sprinter Shalonda Solomon.

•DE LA SALLE DEE-LINEMEN: When you're looking at Concord De La Salle football players for the coming season, defensive linemen Mike Pittore and Kyle Balough fall in line somewhere behind returning all-state underclass players like WR Cameron Colvin, DB Willie Glasper, RB-DB Jackie Bates, LB Parker Hanks as well as LB-TE Terrence Kelly. But Pittore and Balough also are rising on the recruiting charts so far this summer. The duo, who are both coming up to 6-1, 215-pound dimensions, were recently named the co-MVPs among defensive linemen at Cal's football camp. They will form a potent pass rushing duo for defensive guru Terry Eidson this season, but may have enough speed, quickness and toughness to be recruited as linebackers for the next level. The DLS defense, in fact, might have six or seven Div. I type recruits flying around the field this fall. Anybody scoring at least once in a game against those guys should be proud.

•LCC, CHATSWORTH TOP ALL-TIME STATE LIST: Further illustrating how great this year's baseball teams were at La Costa Canyon of Carlsbad and Chatsworth is a list that our founder, Nelson Tennis, compiled. He decided to chart out a state record category for most season wins in baseball with one loss or less. Guess which two are No. 1 and No. 2? Here's the list: 33-1 -- Chatsworth, 2003; 32-1 -- Carlsbad La Costa Canyon, 2003; 30-1 -- Granite Bay, 2001; 29-1 -- West Covina Edgewood, 1977; 29-1 -- Fresno Bullard, 1988; 29-0 -- Santa Maria St. Joseph, 1997; 28-0-1 -- Oxnard Rio Mesa, 1980; 27-1 --Lompoc, 1970; 27-1 -- El Cerrito, 1983; 27-1 -- Sonoma Valley, 1999; 26-0 -- Ontario, 1991; 26-1 -- Concord De La Salle, 2000. By the way, that Ontario team in 1991 was led by Mike Sweeney, currently starring for the Kansas City Royals. And that St. Joseph of Santa Maria team was coached by Dave Brunell, longtime A.D. at the school and father of NFL quarterback Mark Brunell.

•THIS IS IT: You may consider this prep notes with a twist column as the final element of our coverage of the 2002-03 school year. We'll start covering key summer events next week as well as start doing features to help get you pumped up for the 2003 football season. Don't let that premium subscription expire. We will not be taking a break from now until mid-August. Thanks to all who gave this web site subscription a try in recent months and we're going to continue pounding on the keyboard to make it a worthwhile and informative internet experience.


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