Coaches Corner with Marijon Ancich and Steve Grady
Angelus News Nov. 13, 2015
360 career wins, 2nd in California high school history, behind only Bob Ladouceur of De La Salle; 19 league championships and three CIF-SS titles; 1999 inductee in National High School Hall of Fame.
On being inducted into the Hall of Fame:It’s a great feeling. You really appreciate it, because you’re playing against some of the best teams in the state of California. We were one of the first teams in the league to beat Mater Dei, which was an accomplishment and a half! We reached a point where you have to play your best game every week, because everyone wanted to schedule us. The toughest thing is moving everyone together in the right direction when you are the target. The players deserve all the credit for that, as does St. Paul’s for backing them up. We had an incredibly loyal group of kids, and the school was behind us 150 percent.
On working a second job as a longshoreman while coaching:With that job, you have to get involved with everybody, and make sure everybody’s cooperating. Similarly, as a coach, you have to take care of the whole package: assistant coaches, players’ school attendance, everything that’s involved. That’s the thing we had [at St. Paul’s]. All 72 guys on the team were going to be ready for the game. And 90 percent of it was watching the films together as a staff and knowing exactly what our approach was going to be. During the season, a 2 a.m. dismissal for coaches was normal! (Ancich’s nickname among players and coaches was “Red Eye”). Even the seniors who were about to graduate would help us out with practice during the spring. That’s rare.
On the accomplishment he’s most proud of:The unity we built within the program. The players and coaches were all united. Of my ex-coaching staff, 58 members have become head coaches [including two of his sons: Dusan at Villa Park, and Visko at Whittier]. And at reunions, the players are still really into it all these years later. There’s nothing better than seeing a guy who played for you 20 years ago.
269 wins in 29 seasons at Loyola (his alma mater); 16 league championships and two CIF-SS championships; a standout player himself, he’s the only person to win both California High School Player of the Year and Coach of the Year.
On being inducted into the Hall of Fame:I’m very humbled and appreciative. Loyola was a great fit; very fulfilling. I never had any aspirations to coach in the pros or elsewhere. I feel very fortunate to have been able to spend my whole career in one place.
I just wish it hadn’t all gone by so fast! I had tremendous assistant coaches, all the way down to the freshman teams, that were so loyal and smart. We were a cohesive group. That is huge, when you know that the freshman and sophomore coaches are teaching everything the same way. The staff was fabulous the whole 29 years I was there.
On his coaching philosophy:My big mantra was “I want to put you in a position to be successful.” Being prepared means putting in a lot of work in the offseason. It means studying playbooks and long practices. I really believe in work, consistency, repetition and accountability.
The kids wanted to win, but if we didn’t, at the very least we could say we were prepared. I was also fair. I don’t know if I was the most well-liked coach, but they [the players] knew I was putting them in a position to be their most successful.
On playing vs. coaching:As a player you’re more physical; you’re in the game, with your teammates, trying to find a way to beat your opponent from a physical standpoint, celebrating when you execute a drive. But as a coach, you’re the one who put that drive together.
You’re still competitive, still experiencing the personal highs and lows of winning and losing. You’re kind of like a kid: you’re high when you win, and low when you lose. That’s what makes it fun. There aren’t a lot of professions when you get that feeling on a weekly basis.