The toughest job to land in the Trinity League seems to be a head coach in boys’ basketball.
That’s because they so rarely open up.
Gary McKnight recently completed his 36th season at Mater Dei.
Chris Nordstrom, once an assistant to McKnight with the Monarchs, has held his current position at Orange Lutheran the past 14 seasons.
Servite coach John Morris was hired in August of 2011, and Santa Margarita coach Jeff Reinert came on board in April of 2012.
The scarcity of job openings in boys’ basketball is likely why the JSerra position gained so much interest when Zach Brogdon retired from coaching to become the youth pastor at Stonehill Church in Meridian, Idaho.
Brogdon was only at JSerra for two years after coming over from Capistrano Valley Christian, but he took a program that had combined for a 2-18 record in Trinity League play the previous two seasons and got the Lions to finish 5-5 in his two seasons, qualifying for the CIF- Southern Section playoffs both years.
They made the postseason in the Open Division his first season, the first time JSerra qualified for the most competitive postseason bracket. The Lions would also advance to the CIF State Regionals that year.
JSerra posted another 18 wins in Brogdon’s second season.
“I’ve been blessed to coach the game of basketball for the last 11 years. From the beginning of my career I have had the love and support of so many people,” Brogdon said. “While making the choice to retire from coaching was challenging and filled with emotion, my wife and I are excited to serve the Lord at Stonehill Church and begin this new adventure together.”
The Lions had a number of qualified candidates show interest in the position before the school chose local product Keith Wilkinson. His hiring was announced on April 9.
JSerra ventured into the college ranks with the hiring of Wilkinson, a move similar to what Santa Margarita did when it lured Reinert away from Fresno State six years ago.
Wilkinson was most recently an assistant coach at UC Riverside, helping the Highlanders double their win total over the previous year in his first season on the bench in 2013-14. The following season, Riverside posted its second-most victories since moving up to Division I.
Wilkinson played at Capistrano Valley High School before graduating in 2005. He had few options out of high school, but the 6-9 forward convinced USC first-year coach Tim Floyd to give him a shot. Floyd made no promises beyond one year.
Wilkinson proved himself from the first day of practice and would go on to have a successful career while playing alongside future NBA players DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson, O.J. Mayo, Gabe Pruitt, Nikola Vucevic and Nick Young.
“He fought through a one-year scholarship offer and earned everything that he got, earned playing time,” Floyd told the Orange County Register in 2009. “He’s really the lone surviving freshman from that group we brought in – the one that probably had the least expectations and contributed the most.”
Wilkinson likely gained much of his toughness and determination from his father, Jerry Wilkinson, a 6-foot-9 defensive end who played two seasons in the NFL. He was a member of the 1979 Los Angeles Rams team that reached the Super Bowl.