By Martin Gallegos
The best coach in the conference.
That is the honor new LPC basketball head coach James Giacomazzi was given last season in his final year with Cosumnes River College.
Over his 11-year span at Cosumnes River, a community college near Sacramento, Giacomazzi racked up 209 wins along with six playoff berths, five sweet 16 appearances, two coach of the year awards and two Big 8 Conference Championships.
Having so much success at the school, why would anyone want to leave? For Giacomazzi, it’s all about location. He was living in Elk Grove, a short 5 mile trip from the college he was coaching at. After meeting his wife and starting a family, they decided to make a life decision. Both Giacomazzi and his wife are from the Bay Area and they felt it would be best for them to move back to the area, specifically Livermore, in order to lessen the commute for his wife and be closer to their extended family.
While Giacomazzi was happy with his decision to move, the grind of the six-year daily commute from Livermore to Sacramento began to take its toll.
“I was commuting 74 miles that way (to Sacramento) and home,” Giacomazzi said. “I felt that I had a little bit of a disconnect with the family because I wasn’t around as much as I wanted to be and I wasn’t there as much as I wanted to be for the students that I teached or the players because I had to commute so much.”
Shortly after Lon Rork’s departure from LPC, Giacomazzi became aware of the opening for the head coaching job of the Hawks. The chance to work at a school so close to home was an offer he could not refuse. It was a dream job for him.
“When this job became available it was really attractive because I live three exits away.” Giacomazzi said. “I think this is a great school with great facilities. I think it’s still on the climb and I want to be a part of that climb. I also wanted to work and coach and be a part of the community and this gave me the opportunity to do that.”
While leaving Cosumnes River, the school that gave him his first shot, after 11 successful seasons was a difficult decision, Giacomazzi has no regrets.
“It wasn’t a easy decision but ever since I took the job I knew it was 100 percent the right decision,” Giacomazzi said.
Giacomazzi is bringing a familiar face with him to LPC in Jonathan James, who will serve the same role he had at Cosumnes River as the lead assistant coach. Also accompanying Giacomazzi as an assistant is Jordan Whittenburg, who played for Community College Basketball Hall of Fame head coach Percy Carr at San Jose City College.
Together, these coaches hope to create an identity of exciting basketball for LPC.
“We prefer to play quick. We like to get up and down and take advantage of mismatches when they’re available,” Giacomazzi said. “Defensively, we want to be versatile but at the same time apply a lot of pressure on the ball. We pride ourselves on being fundamentally sound on offense and defense, minimizing our mistakes and making sure we take care of the ball on offense to get a good shot every time. On defense we want to make sure it’s tough for opponents to score on every shot.”
Last season, Cosumnes River ranked third in the state in field goal percentage against defense, which means their defense made things extremely difficult for opposing offenses. This is a stat Giacomazzi hopes to carry over to Livermore.
In his time at Cosumnes River, Giacomazzi helped many student-athletes earn scholarships to four-year colleges. He’s not hopeful that this will continue at LPC, he is guaranteeing that it will.
“We’re gonna do that, it’s not even a hope,” Giacomazzi said. “It’s pretty hard to play for me. You have to go to class. You have to take care of your responsibilities. You have to be on time. You have to work hard every single day. When you don’t give them an option to fail, you see a lot more success. I’m trying to teach the guys that we don’t have any options of failing, there’s only success and getting it done. No excuses. It’s bigger than just yourself. That’s how you build a program and not just a basketball team.”
One main ingredient to establishing a program is getting fans to actually care and show up to games, something LPC has had trouble with for years. Giacomazzi plans to change all that, beginning with their first game on November 2 against Simpson College.
“Day one we’re gonna do the best we can as players, coaches and as a department to get as much notice out to the students as possible and to the community as possible,” Giacomazzi said. “I want to change that whole deal as soon as possible and start getting some folks to come out and see us play and it starts with our own school and then it can branch out the the high school levels and even the elementary levels. We want to show everyone that they can come out and have a good time.