Assistant coaches: the unsung heroes of boys basketball

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Inside the Valencia High School gym on Wednesday, boys basketball head coach Bill Bedgood moves from hoop to hoop, clipboard in hand and whistle around neck, scrutinizing his players and giving instruction.

At center court, with two players, stands assistant coach Jeremy Paggao, who is observing the full scene.

“For me, it’s all about the details,” Paggao said. “I think I’m really good at recognizing details and understanding personnel, so it’s just using what I do best and applying it to whatever I can here.”

While Paggao and Bedgood have different roles on the coaching staff and different job titles, the pair work together with fellow assistant coach Alan Woskanian to create the best team possible. And although the team “assistant” implies that Paggao and Woskanian are secondary, they are important cogs in the coaching system.

Just as a team’s players have chemistry, the coaching staff has chemistry as well. When assistant coaches are on the same page as the head coach, the chemistry flows. If not, things start to break down.

“If our coaching staff isn’t close, then there’s no way that guys, players, will follow us,” Paggao said. “Or they see a riff between us coaches, then why would they want to listen or follow our lead if we can’t even get it together?”

Saugus coach Alfredo Manzano has had experience with both good and bad assistants and said they can make or break a team.

“It’s like first and foremost, yes, you want them to have some basketball knowledge, but it’s also a trust thing,” he said. “You want to trust that when you’re not around, they’re relaying the same message and you want to also have them have some good insight because they are a second set of eyes.”

Manzano and Bedgood both want the entire coaching staff to be on the same page, but Bedgood mentioned that he finds different perspectives refreshing.

“You always want to support one another, but it’s okay sometimes to disagree with each other,” he said. “I like guys that don’t see everything the way I see it so it’s another perspective and kind of helps our overall growth.”

Dealing with a roster of teenagers is no small feat and most times can’t be handled by a head coach alone. Assistants can take on the role of coach one minute and therapist the next, reinforcing or smoothing over a head coach’s message to an individual player.

“Sometimes it has to be like a good-cop-bad-cop-type situation,” Paggao said. “Sometimes it’s the consoling, sometimes its the head coach doesn’t have the time to get down on a player or come down on a player so that leaves it up to us.”

Assistant coaches throughout the Foothill League have tactical roles, too. They pick up on details that might fall through the cracks or take care of duties that head coaches just don’t have a spare minute for.

At Saugus, Darren Seow assists Manzano in game preparation, whether its breaking down film or scouting.

“He sleeps, breathes basketball,” Seow said of Manzano. “But us too, we’re always thinking of all the matches and how we can go about our stuff better and how we can defend our opponents better. Each game is different.”

Manzano appreciates the help and allows his assistants to grow within the organization.

“As the more trust I think the head coach has in the assistants, the more responsibilities they get,” Manzano said.

Manzano has been in Seow’s position, too. He took over the head coach position after working as an assistant for Bedgood. Manzano said that the experience he had as an assistant was invaluable when he made the move to head coach.

“The players already know the style, what I’m trying to do, and also the parents saw the commitment levels,” Manzano said. “So the whole transition was very, very easy.”

Different assistant coaches have different aspirations. While Seow is content with perpetuating Saugus’ success as an assistant, Paggao hopes to someday carry the clipboard and whistle with the experience he gained while working under Bedgood.

“Watching a head coach and how they tackle situations, how they tackle coaching individual players, once you take the back seat and understand that, just continue to grow,” he said. “And only do it if you love it.”

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