en Hugo Castillo stepped down as Golden Valley softball coach last month, the school knew right where to look for a replacement.
Officials wanted someone with experience who could build on the growth Castillo spurred over the last six seasons. They did not want to start over.
Enter Daniel Soto, who Golden Valley hired as a physical education teacher over the summer before announcing him as its new softball coach this month.
Soto won a CIF Los Angeles City Section softball title coaching at Venice High in 2013.
He parlayed the title into a two-year stint at Santa Monica College before leaving to look for a high school job.
However, Golden Valley didn’t hire him as a softball coach. Castillo was expected to be back after leading the Grizzlies to an 8-12 overall record last season. Then, when Castillo stepped down in mid-October to focus on his career, according to Golden Valley co-Athletic Director Robert Fisher, the school quickly turned to Soto.
“I said, ‘Of course I’ll take it,’” recalls Soto, who coached pitching on Venice’s baseball team before stepping in to lead the softball team for one season.
The Gondoliers went 25-3-1 that year.
Soto says he told his team on the first day of practice that it would win a CIF title.
“I think I was just trying to pump (them) up,” he said. “I didn’t think we’d turn it around so fast.”
Castillo certainly started the process of turning around a Golden Valley program that had struggled for years to compete in a Foothill League often loaded with NCAA Division 1 prospects.
Golden Valley won two Foothill League games from 2007 to 2010. It won seven league games in Castillo’s last three seasons.
Fisher didn’t want to backtrack.
“Most importantly we wanted to find someone with experience,” Fisher said. “Somebody who has been there before, a varsity head coach who had led a successful program.”
A transition, however, wasn’t planned to take place this quickly.
“We thought someday when Hugo is done coaching here, we would visit it,” Fisher said. “There was no pressure, nothing like we planned on this teacher taking over. It just happened.”