For the last seven games, Phelps, 56, has been on administrative leave for what has been reported as personal reasons. One newspaper had assumed none of those games were being counted on Phelps' coaching record, but they do and an official statement from those of us at Cal-Hi Sports, who exclusively compile all of the state records in California, is included below.
Senior guard Pete Beoris scored 18 points to lead the Dragons, who improved to 16-1 and remained at No. 10 in this week's state rankings. When the game was over, Beoris rolled the game ball to Phelps as a keepsake. No other public acknowledgement of the milestone win was made.
"He is the best coach I have ever had," Beoris told the Oakland Tribune. "I love him so much. I just wish he could coach us. We win every game for him."
Assistant coach Pete Morales has been handling the head coaching duties in an interim capacity in Phelps' absence, but was not afraid at all in describing the Dragons as Phelps' team.
"I love what I do. I know he does it 100 times better than me," Morales told the Tribune. "Everything we do comes from him. We have not changed a thing."
Another report said an allegation against Phelps has been made from an incident that took place more than 30 years ago. We also know from talking to one reporter that Phelps has been scouting opponents of the Dragons and expects the matter to be cleared up soon. Other than that, no other details of the administrative leave have been available and it's not the role of Cal-Hi Sports to act as investigative reporters anyway. In this instance, it's up to the school, the coach and other authorities to determine what is made public and what is not.
So why do the last seven games count when Phelps isn't on the bench? And is there a chance, even remotely, that these recent wins might not count after all? Here's our position:
1. Once a coach begins a season with a team, the wins and losses are counted on that coach's record unless the coach is relieved of his/her duties or leaves the job due to illness or other personal reasons.
2. If the coach is physically not present for a particular game, due to illness or other personal reasons, it makes no difference to the coaching record. An example occurred just last fall when longtime Woodlake High football coach Leo Robinson suffered a stroke. Robinson suffered the stroke on a Monday, his team played the following two Fridays without him and he died two days later. Robinson was not there physically on either of those two Friday nights, but try telling anybody in Woodlake that his coaching presence wasn't everywhere. If the team had won in either of those two games, it would have counted on Robinson's record.
3. Coaching record totals do change from time to time, so no state record we ever report can be considered 100 percent, foolproof and accurate. The record Phelps just broke, for example, was once listed at 847 wins by Bill Armstrong, a longtime CIF Southern Section coach. But research later revealed that nearly 200 of those wins came when Armstrong was coaching at the JV level, so the total was revised to 650.
4. A school itself has much of the final say in all state record totals. In Phelps' case, if Bishop O'Dowd had said he wouldn't be coaching for the rest of this season then none of the wins would count even if he came back next year. The hope in this case obviously is that the matter is cleared up quickly so Phelps can resume normal head coaching duties. His administrative leave, therefore, should be treated the same as any illness or other personal issue. The only way the wins wouldn't count would be if Phelps were to eventually lose his job and school officials told us that they consider the interim coach's tenure to have begun when the first game was missed.
It is too bad indeed that Phelps was not allowed to enjoy this achievement more. We really hate having to cover it this way. Perhaps, when it's appropriate, the school will be able to salute their coach and his new record. After all, there's been tens of thousands of California high school basketball coaches over the last 100 years and this guy is the winningest of them all.