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West Ranch chooses O’Brien

Junior varsity coach with top-notch tutelage becomes second head coach in history of Wildcats’ pro

Posted: March 12, 2009 1:34 a.m.
Updated: March 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Sean O’Brien was an offensive lineman during his playing days, and his coaching philosophy reflects his old position.

“One guy carries the ball,” he said. “Eleven guys carry the team.”

The new head coach of the West Ranch football team hasn’t forgotten the people who helped carry him to this point, either.

O’Brien, 41, played for Newbury Park High School and Occidental College before coming to Hart as an English teacher and junior varsity head coach in 1994.

He coached the Indians until 1998, when he stepped down to spend more time with his family. O’Brien feels his experience under Hart head coach Mike Herrington taught him the principles he now brings to West Ranch.

“This is a very honorable man with integrity to spare,” O’Brien said of Herrington. “I learned a lot about precision and not leaving things to chance. I learned a love of the game and its participants. His staff is never unprepared. If I could bring 1/10 of what coach Herrington brings, I’ll consider myself a success.”

O’Brien continued to teach English at Hart until he moved over to West Ranch when the school opened in 2004.

He resumed coaching with the junior varsity team, and noted that watching former head coach Mike Kane build the program influenced him as well.

“No one will ever do more for West Ranch than what he did,” O’Brien said. “It was a different experience watching him build something from the ground up. This is a very viable program that I am happy to inherit.”

Kane resigned on Dec. 18, citing a lack of time spent with his family, but O’Brien said that Kane and the program were still on good terms.

“It had been something that he had discussed a little bit with me,” O’Brien said of Kane’s decision. “He did what was right for him. There are no hard feelings. Nobody’s grumbling about him leaving.”

But his departure did leave the door open for O’Brien, who submitted paperwork to apply for the head coaching job and then did two separate interviews with West Ranch principal Bob Vincent and athletic director Dody Garcia, among others.

“This was an opportunity that was right in front of me,” he said. “You don’t get opportunities like this very often. I very much wanted it. The group of kids we have here, you want your daughter to marry every one of them.”

That group of kids finished 2-8 last fall, but the non-league schedule included state power Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks and three other teams that won at least eight games.

O’Brien has adopted Kane’s philosophy of scheduling tough opponents in addition to the grueling Foothill League slate.

“The Foothill League is one of the most prestigious leagues in the state of California, and you’re going to have to schedule some teams that are going to be comparable,” O’Brien said. “You’ve got to schedule at least some teams that will challenge you in the way that the Foothill League will.”

West Ranch loses San Diego State-bound quarterback Jake Bernards, its top four rushers and top four receivers, but O’Brien is optimistic that the 2009 Wildcats can fill the holes.

“We have to tailor the offense and defense to our personnel,” he said. “I’ve been around a few people from here and there. I can add my own learning to try and come up with something that we hope will be competitive.”

No matter what, O’Brien is now charged with continuing to build the Wildcats’ program as the second head coach in school history.

And he’s not going to do it alone.

“Your particular role on this squad might be a blocker or a decoy receiver,” he said. “That in no way means you are any less important than the guy carrying the rock. You have to bring that mentality.”

jgulino@the-signal.com

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