Boys’ basketball: More than just a coincidence

first_imgYeah, sure, in the six years Kelly has been the boys’ basketball coach at Campbell Hall of North Hollywood, the Vikings have gone from pretty good small-school team to nationally feared powerhouse. That’s plenty of correlation to start drawing conclusions. But Kelly is not interested in all that. “People ask me that all the time,” Kelly said. “But our ascension to the national level is just a mere coincidence to me being here. All they needed here was stability and organization.” Coincidence, correlation, whatever … Kelly and the rest of the Vikings are too busy soaking it all in – the national rankings, the college coaches on campus every day scouting Jrue Holiday, the big-time atmosphere at every game – to worry about the “why?” They’ve never worried about the “why?” or even the “when?” Which, in a lot of ways, is how they ended up here. Campbell Hall (28-1) will take on La Canada (28-2) in the Southern Section Div.III-AA championship this morning at 10:45 at the Toyota Center in Anaheim. It’s the fourth time in the past five years Campbell Hall has played for a Southern Section title. In those five years, the Vikings have lost just 14 games. Kelly knows all of those statistics off the top of his head. He’s the one who worries about those details. He’s the one who knows that the Vikings are 19th in the USA Today Super 25 Poll. And he’s the one who will get fired up if they drop even one spot. The players couldn’t care less. Their job is to play basketball, have fun and represent the school well. Kelly and his staff filter out all the other concerns. “I don’t know where we’re ranked,” Jrue Holiday said. “I don’t pay attention to that stuff.” This day is a lot like any other day at Campbell Hall. Jrue Holiday and senior guard Robert Ford are hanging after practice, talking about school while the boys’ volleyball team takes the court and members of a performing arts group duck their heads in every few minutes to chat. Kelly and assistant coach Paul Tait are back in their small coaches’ office, getting ready to study film on La Canada. Tait pulls out the camcorder with La Canada’s game from the night before cued up and starts hooking it up to the 30-inch flatscreen TV in the corner. Kelly plops down on a blue couch along the wall that you can tell has hosted its share of long nights. “We probably study more film than any other school in the Valley,” Kelly said. “When the playoffs started, there were 33 teams in our division and we already had tape on 32 of them.” That’s not just 32 tapes, though. “I’ve probably seen La Canada already three times myself,” Tait said. “The other tapes, we get from all over. I have former players at (his alma mater) Village Christian who’ll say, `Coach Kelly needs tape? Sure, I’ll go get it.’ “We’ve got one guy, Willie Pena, who played at Village. He does all our advance scouting. We throw him 30 or 40 bucks and a T-shirt. But he just likes being a part of it. All he said was, `I’ll do all your games, but I want to go to the semifinals and finals.”‘ That kind of attention to detail goes all the way down to the last muffin. Yeah, muffin. It’s only Wednesday, but Tait’s already got a plan for breakfast on Saturday morning. He’s going to pick up bagels and muffins in the morning and athletic director Anthony Harris is going to cook scrambled eggs. But hold off a little before you call these guys obsessive. It’s not going to stick, not to a guy like Kelly, who’s out shooting half-court shots with the school chaplain an hour before a semifinal game. “The ref came up to me and was like, `Who’s the head coach here?’ And I’m like, `Um, that’s me sir,”‘ Kelly said. And it’s certainly not going to stick to a team that chose to spend all of its free time at a tournament in Delaware this winter hanging out, playing video games and shooting pool. “After we beat Simon Gratz of Philadelphia, I said to Justin, `You guys earned it. What do you want to do? Where do you guys want to go?”‘ Kelly said. “And he was like, `You know what coach? Honestly, we just want to go to the house and hang out.”‘ Kelly and Tait were right in there, hanging out and playing flashlight tag with Kelly’s sons, Chris and William. “I’m really like 22 years old,” Kelly jokes. Some would say more like 17. Last week, star guard Dallas Rutherford missed a couple of days with the flu. Kelly got on his T-Mobile Sidekick and sent him a text message. “Dallas, I really miss you.” Rutherford didn’t recognize the number. He wrote back, “Who is this?” Kelly laughed, then wrote, “This is Coach Kelly. I’m hurt. I can’t believe you haven’t saved my number yet.” That is Kelly. He’s an East Coast, work-hard, play-hard kind of guy. Demanding? Absolutely. Just ask the 26 assistant coaches he’s gone through in his six years at Campbell Hall. Determined? Oh yeah. Kelly has lost 65 pounds while training for Sunday’s Los Angeles Marathon. Somewhere in between coaching, teaching and being a husband and father, he’s found time to run nine miles a day to train. Perfectionist? An understatement. “His playbook is like five Bibles stacked together,” Harris said. Fun-loving? More than you know. Every day at Campbell Hall is like hanging out at the frat house, without all the debauchery. Driven? That’s a longer story. He used to be completely driven. His career was everything. The kind of guy who went to coaches’ clinics, sat in the front row and wrote down every word. “Lute Olson would say `hello’ and I’d write that down,” he joked. He was never much of a basketball player. Good in high school because he was tough and smart. Good as a walk-on at Florida State because he didn’t mind bringing Sam Cassell water or taking charges in practice. But even he knew early on his future in the game would be in coaching. At 22, he landed his first gig, coaching at his alma mater, the Canterbury School in Ft. Myers, Fla. Success came right away. Canterbury was always ranked in the state, won a bunch of titles, even sniffed the USA Today poll on occasion. But Kelly needed more. He needed to see how far he could go. So he switched over to coaching at a public school in Ft. Myers and took an assistant coaching position with a USBL team, under head coach Rick Barry. He hated every second of it. He couldn’t connect to the kids. He couldn’t fathom the lifestyle of a minor-league basketball coach, traveling all over the country in buses, scraping by on dreams and peanuts. Almost on cue, a call came from a high school out in Los Angeles. Campbell Hall was a good program, but not great. Every coach who had been there just seemed to use it as a springboard to something else. The longest anyone had ever stayed was three years. Kelly didn’t dwell on that. The school wanted to fly him out for an interview, and he was even picked up from the airport in a Lincoln Town Car. Within 19 days, he’d taken the job, sold his house in Florida and moved his family out to a new home in California. He didn’t know it at the time, but he’d landed in the place he would later decide was good enough to be the last job he’d ever have. “I’m not looking to go anywhere else,” he said. “I’ve had a number of collegiate opportunities, a number of high school opportunities, and I don’t care. I don’t care to go anywhere else than Campbell Hall. I’m happy here.” Your instinct is to ask a follow up question, to go back to the “how?” or the “why?” But isn’t it obvious? [email protected] (818) 713-3617 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Take your pick. Either way. Those are the stories Terry Kelly would have you believe. center_img NORTH HOLLYWOOD – Maybe it all started when Toya Holiday got tired of spending her life on the freeway, driving her sons Justin and Jrue to school in Rancho Cucamonga, then all the way out to work in North Hollywood every day. Or maybe it was when Joe Ford walked onto campus one day about six years ago and decided the small, tony private school on the west side of Laurel Canyon Boulevard that you drive past four times before you see the entrance gate was the one for him. last_img