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    Pleasant Grove High senior guard James Watson exults after the Elk Grove school beat Santa Monica 73-57 Friday night at Sleep Train Arena for the Division I state championship.

  • Joe Davidson

Hometown Report: McCoin helps sweep Pleasant Grove into basketball history

Published: Tuesday, Mar. 26, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Mar. 27, 2013 - 5:15 pm

Bill McCoin pushed a broom before every practice this season.

He lugged bags filled with balls, carried jugs of water up flights of stairs, taped ankles.

Yes, even the assistant coaches for Pleasant Grove High School's basketball team embraced the Eagles' theme of "Get dirty," the battle cry McCoin used to implore players to dive for loose balls, to box out.

"Whatever it takes to get the job done," McCoin stressed last week. He said so while going baseline to baseline with that broom, a man in his element.

Late Friday night, McCoin stood outside a jubilant Sleep Train Arena dressing room, emotional in reflection. He was flanked by head coach John DePonte and assistant Jeremiah Taylor.

The Eagles made history, becoming the first Division I boys team from the Sac-Joaquin Section to win a state championship with a 73-57 rout of Santa Monica.

The new Open Division allowed this to happen. The newly initiated Open allowed public schools such as Pleasant Grove a chance to compete for a championship. Even CIF Executive Director Roger Blake conceded that "it's not a balanced playing field, and it's not always fair" among public and private schools.

The private schools have dominated this party, including a 10-0 sweep in all five state boys and girls title games last season.

Of the six boys teams competing for CIF championships last weekend, Pleasant Grove was the only Northern California team to win.

McCoin has seen firsthand the rise of the regional game. At 6-foot-7, he was a prolific scorer for Casa Roble 25 years ago. His three-point shooting and physical play inside earned him a spot on The Bee's All-Metro first team.

McCoin enjoyed some good moments and trying times at Sacramento State as the Hornets entered the Division I era.

He graduated early, gained employment with the Sacramento Police Department, married and started a family. His son, Hunter, played on the Pleasant Grove junior varsity this season, and his daughter, Alexa, is a junior on the Eagles' softball team.

McCoin's wife, Cathy, is the Eagles' basketball scorekeeper. She confesses that after all these years, Bill is still her favorite player.

In McCoin's prep days, teams that reached the section finals at old Arco Arena achieved milestones. Players and coaches didn't speak of regional or state titles. Sacramento played in the Bay Area's shadow then.

That has changed.

McCoin said the athletes today are better, more versatile. The competition is more intense, including statewide or national scheduling. Opposing coaches have never been more crafty and prepared.

"I could never play with these guys," McCoin said.

McCoin, 42, is selling himself short. He can still run with these guys, his coaching friends say. He has aged well, and he's delighted to give back to the game.

"Oh, Bill can play," DePonte said. "He'll get out there with the guys if he feels they need some pushing around. He'll take them on in shooting contests. And Bill's not afraid to be the bad guy.

"Some assistant coaches want to be a buddy, the one players come to complain to about playing time. I can't say enough of what Bill's done for us to push this program to another level."

DePonte was looking for a coach two years ago to help him. While teaching an algebra class, DePonte asked Alexa about her stout father. Was he a player? Does he want to coach?

"It's been a perfect fit," DePonte said. "Bill's exactly what we needed. He really rejuvenated me. We're not here without him."

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