February 26, 2014

Leigh success no accident

Kevin McCarthy

Let's make a prediction. This article will not be among the well-read because it contains no sexual accusations, no litany of bar brawl participations nor any recounting of physically abusing a life partner. Nobody flunks out in the following, eligibility is not left hanging in the balance. Yes, to some degree it is an exposé, just not on the side of discrediting anyone. Rather it is intended to bring attention to the hard work on and off the court of a certain group, a testimony to the effort they have given and the success attained.

photo of Joe Giacchetti.png

Here's another forecast: The Leigh boys basketball team is probably not going to win the state championship this season. But if you want to talk preparing the road for successes in life, well, the Longhorns rank right up there and the dividends will be paying off throughout the lives of the entire roster led by Coach Patrick Judge.

Yes, Leigh is currently 23-2 overall (14-0 in league) this season and just received the #6 seed in the upcoming CCS Open Division Playoffs. Those are the black and white on-the-court measurement numbers.

After a 9-17 record in his initial go-around at Leigh, Judge's teams have posted (working forwards) seasons of 24-5, 20-8 and 21-8. Remember, this is a public school. There has been no luring of transfers, no questionable eligibilities, no shennanagins, none of that baloney.

Through the years, his guys have gained greater experience, advanced their skills sets and truly performed as a team.

Try 6-foot-6 Jared Williams, averaging 15.0 points and 11.7 rebounds this current season. Or Joe Giacchetti leading the squad with 17.2 points an outing. Don't forget Kyle Morrison with 9.7 points, 4.5 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 2.0 steals per contest or Josh Verner's 7.7 points and 3.1 assists.

Get away from basketball and numerical significances still remain.

Williams sports a 4.6 grade point average. Morrison a 4.0, Verner a 3.8 and Giacchetti is the 'low' man of the foursome at 3.0.

The team motto is “120 all day” meaning giving 120% in everything, not just on the court and the evidence speaks for itself.

Here's Judge about 2013-14: “I knew we were going to be very good this season but I didn't think we would be at 23-2 at this point.”

There are multiple factors contributing to the success of the Longhorns.

The Leigh players spend the spring and summer competing as a unit -- “there's a strong bond between the kids and a lot of camaraderie,” Judge explained.

Plus, prior to the beginning of the season, Judge takes each player out to lunch to talk about individual and team goals.

How many coaches do that?

"Make it enjoyable" is another of Judge's credos. “Being successful is fun. I look forward to going to Leigh every day. We play six players heavily but everyone contributes and works their tails off.”

Using Williams, the Co-MVP of the league, as an example, Judge said, “Jared has been with us on varsity since his freshman year. He is one of the hardest working kids I've ever coached and a wonderful, positive asset. He continues to come into his own, defending well, rebounding well and we run our offense through him. Jared is looking at Stanford, Duke and USC for his education and he might try to play as a walk-on.”

In a profession not given to making predictions, Judge offered, “Jared will be a CEO when he's 35, 40.”

So why coaching for Judge?

“I graduated high school 5-foot-11, 155 pounds and I knew my days of playing basketball were over. Because of a lot of experiences I went through, I wanted to coach and do something different. I knew there were ways to encourage and build up kids so they have confidence in themselves.”

He began by coaching sixth graders at Valley Christian High and worked up through the ranks there. Then he profited by working with Mitch Priest at Santa Teresa High for three years before his turn at Leigh.

Here are the 2013-14 Leigh High Longhorns: