Bakersfield Christian’s Garrett Brown is not your typical first-year boys basketball head coach.
The Centennial High graduate’s basketball knowledge far exceeds that label, crafted long before he took over the Eagles’ program in June. But that’s to be expected, especially considering his father is former Cal State Bakersfield head coach Keith Brown, who is now an assistant at Fresno State.
The younger Brown spent the past two years as an assistant to Kyle Shiloh at BCHS, all the while raising a family and working a full-time job. But when the former Garces star left to pursue a business venture full time, Brown’s level of commitment to the Eagles’ increased exponentially.
The results have been magical thus far.
After stumbling to an 0-3 start, Bakersfield Christian found its footing just as star bigman Ben Yurosek joined the squad in mid-December after leading the BCHS to the CIF State Division 3-A football championship.
The Eagles (26-6) basketball team is 22-1 with Yurosek in the lineup and are suddenly just one win away from playing for another state, this time in basketball.
“It feels great (to get to this point),” said Brown, who has also leaned on his assistants, former East High coach Milt Henderson, and Matt Smith, who starred at CSUB. “It’s extremely satisfying just knowing all the work that we've put in since we started last March.
"All the work that my guys have put in and that I’ve put in, you know, extra work watching work and doing individuals, talking on the phone and meeting with each one individually, just building that relationship up and building that trust. It’s extremely satisfying just watching all of the fruits of our labor turning into us winning games.”
But first No. 5-seeded Bakersfield Christian must dispose of host Pacific Palisades-Palisades (18-11) in Tuesday’s Southern California Regional Division IV final at 7 p.m. The winner will play for a state championship at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center at noon on Saturday.
“They’re good,” Brown said. “They like to switch up their defenses a lot. They have a couple of shooters, a couple of athletic guards that like to get up and down and they have a couple of (big players) that play well with each other, in terms of catching the ball at the high post and then looking for the next big down on the block or the short corner. They pose some challenges for us, but we’ll be ready to go.”
Palisades and BCHS have not played this season, but they certainly should have plenty of film on each other. Harbor City-Narbonne, which the Eagles defeated 56-47 on Saturday, lost to Palisades in the Los Angeles City Section D-1 championship a few weeks ago. The Dolphins also defeated Independence in the opening round of the SoCal regionals, the same Falcons squad that finished second to Bakersfield Christian in South Yosemite League play.
“I don’t really put too much on (common opponents),” Brown said. “It’s all about matchups at this point and which team matches up better with the team that you play on the current day.
“They do try and slow it down a bit with their defenses and they run a 1-1-3 matchup like we do and they play some man (defense), but if we go out there and we execute our stuff on offense … if we share the ball and move it and play the right way; the way we’ve been playing, if we guard and we rebound, we’ll be just fine.”
For BCHS, it all starts with Yurosek, who has committed to play football at Stanford next season. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound senior is averaging a double-double in points and rebounds in his team’s three regional games.
He’s received the perfect complement from point guard Seth Marantos, ultra-athletic Lendl Henderson Jr. and steady guard Levi Letu, along with sophomore 3-point specialist Zach Hiebert.
Henderson Jr. had a team-high 19 points in Saturday’s victory over Narbonne and led the team in scoring with 17 in the Eagles’ regional opener against Mayfair.
“I have really good players,” Brown said. “They pay attention to detail, they listen to me, they listen to my instruction, they take our film sessions seriously and they go out and execute the game plan that I put out there for them. They pay attention to the scouting report, they trust me and I trust them to go out there and execute it. We’re just clicking right now, we’re all on the same page, and we’re looking to keep it going for another six days.”