LAHS students run basketball camp that tries to follow public health orders

 Dhruv Bhagavatula
Navya Singhai/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos High students Akshaan Ahuja and Dhruv Bhagavatula, above, work with kids at their basketball camp, DA Basketball Clinics, over the summer.

People of all ages have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – and in various ways. Los Altos High School juniors Dhruv Bhagavatula and Akshaan Ahuja started DA Basketball Clinics after noticing how much younger kids were struggling with being at home all day.

Los Altos hires former Foothill assistant to lead girls basketball program

Erik Stuart plans to apply some of the concepts that have worked for him as an executive at two Fortune 500 companies to his new job as head coach of the Los Altos High girls basketball team.

LAHS players put on the press, but they can’t save coach’s job

LAHS girls basketball
Courtesy of Jaclyn Brode
The Eagles commemorate their upset of Palo Alto this year, which coach Jaclyn Brode called “a great team moment.”

By Pete Borello
Staff Writer/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

An effort by players, parents and alumna to save Jaclyn Brode’s job as varsity girls basketball coach at Los Altos High has failed.

Brode – who guided the Eagles for seven seasons – said principal Wynne Satterwhite told her March 12 that she would not be retained as coach, and supporters rallied to her defense. The team went to the administration the next day to voice its displeasure with the move, according to Brode, and parents and alumna lobbied for her return via phone calls and emails to the school in the weeks that followed.

It wasn’t enough to change Satterwhite’s mind; Brode said an email a player received from the principal May 18 confirmed that the decision was final.

“My heart breaks for all the amazingly hardworking, team-first players that were a part of our program,” Brode told the Town Crier last week. “As I understand it to be true, the team members of the program do not agree with the decision.”

Several players confirmed that – including three-year varsity players Jamie Baum and Mone Sekiguchi, both juniors.

“I think that I speak for my team when I say that we are all sad to see Jaclyn and the rest of our coaching staff leave,” all-league point guard Baum said. “This was not something that any of us were expecting and was thrown on us by the school administration, but I am looking forward to playing my senior season all the same.”

Sekiguchi, who missed most of this season due to injury, noted that all 11 players “were happy with our coaches and the team.”

Athletic director Michelle Noeth declined to comment on Brode’s departure – or the coach’s complaint that Noeth was “nonexistent” during the meeting with Satterwhite – though she did acknowledge last week that the coaching job is now open.

Parent may be behind it

Satterwhite did not respond to the Town Crier’s request for comment on what led to Brode’s ouster, but it appears that a parent unhappy with Brode’s coaching style instigated it.

“I am not naive to believe every parent loved the transformational culture we worked tirelessly to create, one in which the focus was on our players’ futures rather than their feelings in the present,” Brode said, “but I do know there was one parent who worked just as tirelessly to do all they could to destroy the team; it was a relentless and victorious effort.”

That parent, whom Brode would not name, apparently had some help.

Sekiguchi – one of Brode’s biggest supporters – said that a few “former players and parents of former players, for sure” complained about the coach and “possibly parents of JV players that never specifically had Jaclyn.”

The campaign to get Brode and her staff fired began even before the season ended, according to Sekiguchi, and the guard tried to put a stop to it.

“In February, I asked the AD if I could meet with her along with some of my teammates because we were aware that there were things being said about the coaches by people that weren’t on the team,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that the AD heard it from both sides.”

Sekiguchi added that she and the other players “felt really good after the meeting,” because Noeth “told us she had no intention of letting the coaches go.” When they were let go a month later, Sekiguchi said that “it truly felt like our voices didn’t matter.”

Teammate Rachel Barkan agreed.

“I think it is absurd and unfair that the team had no say in the matter, as we are the ones the decision affects,” the senior said. “The admin only listened to a couple of upset parents and failed to get the opinion of the whole team and all the parents, which I believe is not the proper way to make such a decision.”

Admin taken to task

Senior Alyssa Hamamoto said the administration gave the players false hope when they were told in mid-March that Brode’s fate was not sealed.

“My teammates and I were under the impression that they were rethinking the situation after our principal told us directly that her decision was never final,” she said. “Just recently, we were deeply saddened after emailing our principal and finding out that she would not be taking back our coach. What made matters worse is that she did not plan on telling Jaclyn Brode herself, leaving it up to one of the players from our team who had to give her the sad news.”

Jaclyn Brode” width=
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier File Photo
Over her seven seasons as Los Altos High girls basketball coach, Jaclyn Brode guided the Eagles to the playoffs five times.

Kristin Garcia, one of Brode’s assistant coaches, said Satterwhite and Noeth handled the situation “poorly and unprofessionally” and should have looked at the whole picture before making their decision.

“It’s hard to see a program become more about making a few parents happy rather than listening to the players and understanding the overall goal of a program,” the Los Altos High graduate said. “Our philosophy is more than just coaching basketball; it’s about teaching them life lessons and helping kids become better adults through sports. (Brode) stressed commitment, independence and responsibility.”

Coach lands on her feet

Brode has come to realize that the administration’s coaching philosophy didn’t line up with hers.

“Los Altos is looking for a transactional coach to oversee a recreational program in which participation is awarded,” the Mountain View High graduate said. “My coaching staff and I don’t align with those values or vision. We serve from a transformational purpose, focusing on who the players become throughout their journey, growing in them the life tools needed to succeed."

Senior Evelyn Baher-Murphy appreciated Brode’s devotion to the program.

“Over the years I have had a lot of coaches, and none have come close to putting the amount of effort in that Jaclyn does,” she said. “No matter what, she watched the game tape right after we played and always had in-depth practice plans so we were working on exactly what we need to. We had weight room at least three times a week in a way that was meaningful and beneficial. In the offseason, we had workouts six times a week. Nobody asked her to do all that – she just did.”

Brode plans to do the same at Saratoga, which she said hired her as varsity girls coach May 22 – just two days after her job interview. Brode’s assistant coaches will be joining her there.

“The high expectations for both academics and athletics at Saratoga is apparent, and we couldn’t be more excited for the great fit,” said Brode, an elementary school PE teacher. “We are very anxious to get going with our new program.”

Brode leaves Los Altos with an overall record of 87-86. The Eagles qualified for the playoffs five times in her seven seasons, twice advancing to the Central Coast Section quarterfinals. Los Altos placed third in the SCVAL De Anza Division this year at 6-6 – upsetting league champion Palo Alto along the way – and lost in the second round of CCS to finish 12-14 overall.

“I am super thankful for the three years that I got to spend with them,” Sekiguchi said of Brode and her staff. “It’s saddening to see them move on, (but) I’m happy that they’re able to continue doing what they love to do.”

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Expect Pinewood to pick up the pace under new boys hoops coach

By Pete Borello
Staff Writer/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

While it’s hard to predict how many games the Pinewood School boys basketball team will win next season under new coach Clint Ladine, it’s safe to assume that the Panthers will score plenty of points.

Hired this month, Ladine said he favors the run-and-gun style made famous by Paul Westhead when he coached Loyola Marymount University 30 years ago. Westhead’s Lions averaged an NCAA-record 122.4 points per game in 1990.

“It’s a fast-paced offense that allows all 12 guys (on the team) to play with confidence. They all have the green light (to shoot), so everyone is a threat,” Ladine said. “Defensively, we can help push the pace with difference presses, including man-to-man and half-court traps.”

Courtesy of Clint Ladine
Clint Ladine, shown coaching son Clayton at Burton High, has been hired to coach the Pinewood School boys basketball team.

Ladine has employed this style before – with great success. In his first and only other stint as a basketball coach, he guided San Francisco’s Burton High boys squad to a 47-39 record, a league championship and two playoff appearances in three seasons, over which the Pumas averaged nearly 62 points per game.

Burton went undefeated in the Academic Athletic Association his first season, 2014-15, and averaged a state-best 85.7 points per game. His son, guard Clayton Ladine, was the state’s top scorer, averaging 37.8 points per contest.

Although the Pumas didn’t average as many points per game the next season, dipping to 76.7, they lasted longer in the playoffs.

“The second year was the highlight when we went to the city championship and lost to Mission High, and we made the state playoffs,” the coach said.

Burton missed the playoffs in 2016-17, which proved to be Ladine’s last season at the helm. The school’s athletic director, who coached the team prior to Ladine, took his old job back.

“I didn’t want to leave there, but he wanted to coach again,” Ladine said. “It was unfortunate. I loved it there. My wife teaches there and we live nearby.”

Ladine met his wife at Bethany University, a since-closed college in Scotts Valley where he played point guard on the men’s basketball team.

“I loved it there,” said the Turlock native. “The coach was John Block, a former NBA player, and I learned a lot from him.”

Ladine also realized that he didn’t want his basketball career to end after graduation, so he went overseas to play professionally.

“I played in Australia for one year and Germany for five years, and it was a blast,” he said. “I married young and we went over there and had some of our kids.”

The father of five, Ladine has sent several of his kids to Pinewood girls basketball coach Doc Scheppler over the years to improve their shooting. It was Scheppler who told Ladine about the coaching vacancy. Three weeks after applying, Ladine landed the job.

“It was pretty quick, especially during these times,” said Ladine, who interviewed over the phone and via Zoom due to the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m happy with the result, and I’m itching to get into the gym.”
Pinewood athletic director Matt Stimson seemed just as eager to have him get started.

“He will be a great addition to our staff,” Stimson said, “and will bring leadership, poise and teamwork.”

He also brings a quick-trigger offense that will likely improve upon last season’s production. The Panthers averaged just 44.5 points per game in the West Bay Athletic League, the second-lowest output among the eight teams. They placed sixth in the WBAL with a 3-11 record (12-14 overall) in what would be Scott Alexander’s third and final year as coach. At season’s end, Pinewood “decided to move in a different direction,” Stimson said.

Ladine noted that the direction he will point the players in will probably be new to them.

“They’ll be learning to play with speed,” said Ladine, who holds a doctorate of strategic leadership from Regent University and works as a senior major gift officer for Sutter Health. “Players are used to being taught to play with restraint, and this is a little bit out of the box. I want the kids to play with confidence and an aggressive mindset. I want them to try to dictate our pace and style instead of reacting to what the other team is doing.”

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On-court chemistry helps 2 seniors from Los Altos lead Homestead to title

By Pete Borello
Staff Writer/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

When Izzy Sathy and Kendra Wong were on the court, the Homestead High girls basketball team was nearly impossible to beat this season. The two seniors from Los Altos led the Mustangs to a 21-3 overall record.

Their last loss came with Sathy on the bench; she fouled out with approximately four minutes left in the fourth quarter of a second-round playoff game that Carlmont won 51-45 in overtime.

“That really hurt us,” Wong said. “The team chemistry was off when we were not on the court together.”

Kendra Wong and Izzy Sathy” width=
Courtesy of Andy Wong
Homestead High’s Kendra Wong, left, and Izzy Sathy display the MVP and first-place trophies they won at the Cupertino Classic.

That probably had a lot to do with the strong on-court chemistry Wong and Sathy forged over years of friendship and playing the game together. They met in kindergarten at Montclaire Elementary School and played on the same YMCA youth basketball team growing up.

“Our dads coached our Y ball team,” said Sathy, who also played a year of club basketball with Wong. “We’ve been friends forever.”

This season – the third in which they played on the varsity team together – the co-captains could practically read each other’s minds on the court.

“We can tell what each other is going to do, so we know where to cut and pass,” Sathy said. “We know each other’s style.”

That proved especially helpful to Wong, the point guard tasked with running the team’s up-tempo offense.

“It’s great, because we always know where the other person is going,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of fun playing with her over the years.”

Especially this year, which guard/forward Sathy described as “the perfect senior season.” She and Wong steered the Mustangs to their best record since the 2015-16 campaign. Homestead crushed the competition at the Cupertino Classic – Wong and Sathy shared tournament MVP honors – before dominating the SCVAL El Camino Division earlier this year. The Mustangs went 11-1 in league, winning by an average of nearly 27 points per game.

Wong and Sathy played some of their best basketball during that stretch. Wong buried a career-best four 3-pointers in a win over Mountain View, and Sathy made all five of her field goals in a rout of Monta Vista.

Opposing coaches took notice of how integral Sathy and Wong were to Homestead’s success, voting them co-MVPs of the El Camino Division.

“It was unexpected for me,” said Wong, the Mustangs’ 3-point leader with 27. “It’s really cool to have that (MVP) title but also to share it with my friend and the co-captain of my team.”
Sathy, who averaged 10 points per game in her fourth varsity season, added, “It felt good (to be honored), and it was great that me and Kendra could share that as well.”

While they may never again share the same court, both girls are headed in the same direction next fall – east. Wong is going to Carnegie Mellon University, where she has committed to play basketball; Sathy is bound for Wellesley College, which recruited her to play soccer. However, she hasn’t ruled out playing basketball as well, because soccer is a fall sport in college.

“I like both sports equally,” said Sathy, who plays center back for the MVLA Soccer Club. “I’ll see how I manage academics with soccer and then see if I can do basketball, too.”

Wellesley (located in Massachusetts) and Carnegie Mellon (Pennsylvania) don’t play each other in basketball next season, but Wong hopes the two NCAA Division III schools will meet on the court before she and Sathy graduate – and that both of them are in uniform.

“It would be really fun to play her,” Wong said.

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