This is a season of major landmarks for Diablo Valley College men’s basketball coach Steve Coccimiglio.
He is two wins away from career victory No. 600, and will be inducted into the California Community College Men’s Basketball Coaches Association (CCCMBCA) Hall of Fame on March 11 at the San Ramon Marriott.
Coccimiglio, who has sent 32 players to Division I programs, is poised to become the state’s third community college men’s coach to reach the 600-win plateau. The Vikings (2-1) will next face Cabrillo on Nov. 18 to open the Shasta Invitational.
In his 27th year at DVC, Coccimiglio has a 598-252 career mark, including winning or sharing 12 conference championships. His teams have made seven Elite Eights and one Final Four (1996-97).
"DVC Head Coach Steve Coccimiglio has been one of the best for decades," tweeted George Nessman, the Justin-Siena High athletic director, formerly a Cal assistant and San Jose State head coach who coached at Bakersfield and Porterville colleges, as well as De La Salle.
Coccimiglio says he’s “humbled” by the state Hall of Fame honor.
“I can say that it’s been a great level to coach at, and I am very proud of our California Community College Men’s Basketball group,” said Coccimiglio, a past CCCMBCA president who has served on the board for 23 years. “We have a lot of great young coaches that are coming up, and there’s also a rich history of coaches that have been California community college coaches, whether it’s Lute Olson or Jerry Tarkanian or Denny Crum, to even guys like Bob Thomason at UOP and Bob Burton at West Valley … the list goes on and on, so it’s very humbling and I’m very grateful.”
San Jose City coach Percy Carr leads the state with more than 800 wins, and John Chambers, who retired after coaching at San Jacinto for more than 30 years, is second with 702. Coccimiglio is next.
Coccimiglio came to DVC after serving as an assistant under Lynn Nance at Saint Mary’s College from 1986-89. He made the move after Nance took the coaching job at the University of Washington.
He grew to relish the community college experience.
“I honestly felt I would stay in junior college for a short time, and then I wanted to go back in Division I,” Coccimiglio recalled. “When I got hired on as full-time faculty member at DVC, I began to realize that these California Community College jobs are actually pretty good for your family and for your lifestyle.”
Plus, the relative anonymity of the two-year level has its benefits.
“It's kind of funny. I have a saying: ‘One of the bad things about coaching junior college basketball is nobody cares,’ but I also say, ‘one of the good things about junior college basketball is nobody cares,’” Coccimiglio says. “You just coach your guys. You’re an educator. If you win, great. If you don’t, your job is not in jeopardy at this level like it is at the major college level. “
His 2010-11 Big 8 championship squad featured two-time All-State first-team pick Brian Goins. The 2002-03 team that set a school record with 34 wins boasted a trio of future of Div. I players: Mo Charlo (Eureka, Nevada-Reno), Shamar Armstrong (Bethel, UC Irvine) and Tyree Gardner (San Leandro, San Jose State).
DVC won five straight conference titles from 2003 to 2008. Top talent during that stretch included Demarshay Johnson (Oakland Tech, Nevada-Reno), Cedric Hill (University of Denver), Mac Peterson (Deer Valley, San Jose State), Brandon Adams (San Ramon Valley, Hawaii-Manoa), Antonio Flaggs (Mt. Diablo, Sacramento State).
Coccimiglio preaches “common sense basketball," he says. "Don’t turn the ball over. Have good shot selection and then defend the basket at the other end, you know, contain. I am a disciple of Tex Winter’s family line of coaching. While I was at Saint Mary’s with Lynn Nance, I learned the triangle offense -- an offense where guys can really learn how to play, in terms of spacing and timing and cutting,” he says.
During his time at DVC, Coccimiglio has been thrilled to watch Phil Jackson and Winter guide the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers to great heights with the triangle offense.
“Granted, you have Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen; Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, and so that helps out a lot," Coccimiglio says. "But I think the triangle offense, when Michael Jordan embraced it and Kobe Bryant embraced it, made the other players around them better because guys were spaced out and you couldn’t focus on a key player. I’ve been able to teach pretty effectively the triangle offense over the years at DVC. I’ve been able to tinker with it and evolve it to where it fits each team year by year.”
Undeniably, Coccimiglio has had a successful run.
His current team looks promising, featuring 6-foot-9 post Eric Nielsen, multi-skilled 6-4 Brazilian Victor Mijas, Jovantae Carelton, point guard Rodney Pope, and Remi Dillard among others.
The Vikings opened the season with a solid third-place finish in the Tony Costello Tip-Off Classic at Las Positas.
So, the wins, and the landmarks, figure to keep coming for this Vikings legend.
-- Matt Schwab