PADECKY: Curiosity leads prep coaches to SSU clinic

Mark Marquez played high school basketball for Geyersville from 1977-81. Thirty years doesn’t seem like a long time but in this sport, Marquez might as well have played back in the day in which you took an ox cart to work.

“If we played the same way today than we did back then,” said Marquez, an assistant coach at Rancho Cotate, “we would be the dullest team out there. There was no shot clock then. No 3-pointer. We played zone. We couldn’t compete under today’s rules.”

The game has changed dramatically and that’s why Marquez will be one of 45 basketball coaches to attend Sonoma State’s first-ever coaches clinic. They will listen, ask questions and observe on-court demonstrations given by four college coaches.

Cal’s Mike Montgomery is the headliner, having taken Stanford to a Final Four appearance and led the Bears in 2012 to their first conference championship in 50 years. Bob Williams of UC Santa Barbara will be there, the author of a miracle, taking no-scholarship UC Davis to a Division II national title. Bill Grier of the University of San Diego, whose team upset Connecticut in the 2008 NCAA tournament, will be there, along with SSU coach Pat Fuscaldo, who organized the event.

“Change is the only constant in life,” said Dennis Magatelli, Rancho’s head coach.

That concept has developed into a nice cottage industry. Magatelli said he was asked to attend 10 basketball coaching clinics this summer. He made only one, St. Mary’s. Some, like San Diego, involved too much travel. Others, like UC Davis, occurred on days in which Magatelli had a prior commitment.

Maybe that’s why of the 45 coaches who have committed to attend, only six are from Sonoma County. That low number surprised Magatelli as it did Analy’s Brett Page, who will attend. Coaching clinics have begun to pop up like so many flowers during spring.

Page estimates he’s been to 20-25 clinics. A self-confessed basketball junkie, Page looks for tidbits at a clinic. Maybe a phrase or a particular word, simple keys that open doors of knowledge.

“I feel like the more I know,” Page said, “the more I don’t know.”
Meaning, Page keeps an open mind and as obvious as that may read, it’s not so obvious to coaches who believe they have all the answers. Mike Montgomery doesn’t claim it. No one should. But coaches, in any sport, have some measure of “control freak” flowing through them. Makes sense, as they have lives, not just a game plan, under their wing.

But to think outside the box is to go to a coaches clinic. It’s a coach letting go of the “control freak” thing and admitting, just by his presence, that he doesn’t know everything. It’s looking for answers to questions, one especially that confronts most high school coaches eventually.

“If you have a team that’s not particularly fast or doesn’t jump particularly well,” Page said, “how do you compensate for that on defense?”

Magatelli and Page said they are interested in the college game for information about that environment.

“If I get a player that can play at the next level,” Magatelli said, “I can give him a little bit of an idea of what it’s going to be like for him.”

Curiosity. That would be the word that could describe why Magatelli, Page and Marquez will be there. It is a word, frankly, that is the very spine of any good coach in any sport. The late Bill Walsh, for example, would scribble formations on a napkin while eating, tossing around ideas, experimenting.

“If you go after Player A, your opponent’s best player,” Magatelli said, “then what’s the best strategy to go after Player B, the next best, and Player C, the one after that?”

“What about angles?” Marquez said. “What angle do you come at someone? How do you know when to take someone before he dribbles? Or wait until he does dribble? And how many times do you let him dribble?”

Major college coaches, like Montgomery, have resources and a staff that dwarfs anything Page or Magatelli can imagine. Montgomery has a paid staff of seven, including a video coordinator and a strength and conditioning coach.
Magatelli has two assistants, both volunteers.

“I am a (business) teacher,” Magatelli said. “Basketball is my second job.”

So when SSU’s Fuscaldo announced the clinic, Magatelli didn’t spend a lot of time mulling it over. He rearranged his schedule.

“These guys are walking encyclopedias,” Magatelli said. “Why wouldn’t I go? It was no-brainer.”
Magatelli, Page, Marquez, Sonoma Academy’s Kevin Christensen, Summerfield Waldorf’s Mike Carroll and Wendy Whitson, all of them will go for one simple reason.

When you think you know it all, you haven’t learned anything.

You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or