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Sunday, Jun 30 2013 09:21 PM

Longtime Rams coach Lacava stepping down

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    By Rod Thornburg / Special toThe Californian

    Coach Gino Lacava.

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    By Rod Thornburg / Special toThe Californian

    Coach Gino Lacava

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  3. 3 of 3

    By Rod Thornburg / Special toThe Californian

    Coach Gino Lacava

    click to expand click to collapse
BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer zewing@bakersfield.com

If the game really has passed him by, as Garces boys basketball coach Gino Lacava said Sunday, then the rest of us haven't caught on yet.

Regardless, Lacava said he has stepped down after 20 years in charge of Rams hoops, during which time he won 10 Central Section titles in various divisions. That is a section record, according to historian Bob Barnett. Lacava ranks fifth in section history with 428 wins, against only 175 losses.

"I kind of stepped back a year or two ago and thought the game had passed me by," Lacava said. "Sometimes it takes a younger set of eyes out there, and we needed a change. The game itself needed a change in our gym."

Garces assistant Matt Robles, who has been an increasingly active member of Lacava's staff, is the new head coach. Lacava said he will stay on as an assistant.

The Rams reached the Division II section title game this season before losing to Hanford West in double overtime. It was Lacava's 13th title-game appearance in 20 years.

"I've never been a wins and losses guy, and I've never been a stats guy," Lacava said. "I couldn't tell you how many wins I have. I have a very different approach to coaching. I teach kids to work hard, teach them to do very few things and teach them to respect teammates and opponents."

Lacava said he often would use only one play per season, and it was as simple as, "set a screen on the guy with the ball, or don't set a screen.

"And we won seven Valley championships in 10 years like that," he said. "In just about every sport minus football, if kids go out and execute correctly and work hard, they're going to be pretty darn good. By the end of the game in basketball, it turns into who's doing it better. I just teach kids to play the game. I haven't been too concerned with Xs and Os."

That's not to say Lacava didn't have his fair share of players: One was center Robert Swift, a 7-footer who became the No. 12 overall pick in the NBA draft; another was guard Stephon Carter, a three-time Californian Player of the Year who went on to set the career scoring record at Cal State Bakersfield.

"Here's how I measure success," Lacava said. "When guys like Stephon Carter lead the team in assists, that's monumental. When an NBA draft guy was our third-leading scorer, that was a measure of success. And he enjoyed every step of it. That's always been my philosophy: Play it right, play it unselfishly."

Lacava said he first thought it might be time to wind down his career two years ago, and since then he has begun grooming Robles. This past season, Lacava often sat at the end of the bench while Robles coached; Lacava said he has gradually bestowed more duties upon his former player.

"We finally made the plunge," Lacava said. "He's been calling plays, making practice plans, starting to take over the reins. He's a guy who jumped in there and started doing a great job."

He'll certainly have big shoes to fill in Lacava's. But the guy who will now assist Robles said the Rams will be just fine.

"I just talked to younger coaches and watched different games and different styles, and I got a grasp that the game is changing beyond my expertise," Lacava said. "Kids are different than they were 20, 25 years ago. It's just different. We thought this was a good decision."

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