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/[email protected]
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.”
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.”