The first time Jasmine Washington had any sort of encounter with Keith Larsen was when the Pitman High senior noticed his name on a business card. This was during a visit to the Backyard Sports Academy in Turlock, where aspiring athletes can get one-on-one tutoring in baseball and basketball.
Washington, who’s the reigning Central California Conference MVP in girls basketball, noticed that Larsen offered private lessons.
And after that, she didn’t think much of him.
But now Washington, a college prospect, is eager to work with him after Larsen — the former Cal State Stanislaus men’s basketball coach who was fired in April 2009 — was named the head coach of the Pitman girls basketball team for the upcoming season, and beyond. He said he has a long-term commitment with the Pride, considering his daughters, Camilyn and Victoria, will be attending the school during the next five years. Camilyn is a sophomore and plays on the Pitman junior varsity volleyball squad, while Victoria is in the eighth grade.
“That’s one of the reasons why I think it’s going to be a nice fit,” Larsen said.
Even after Larsen was hired, Washington and her teammates knew very little of their new coach.
“My reaction was I wanted to know who he was,” said the senior point guard/small forward, who averaged 17.7 points, 5.8 steals and 3.3 assists last season. “I didn’t know anything. I was curious to find out who he was, what he was like and what he had to offer.”
Stanislaus did not renew Larsen’s contract after he compiled a 55-107 overall record during his six-year tenure. He moved to Turlock after coaching Menlo College in Atherton to two conference championships and two NAIA national appearances. Before then, he was an assistant under Mike Montomery at Stanford University from 1987-92. His other stints include coaching boys basketball, girls volleyball and golf at Woodside High and working as a freshmen and sophomores coach at Mills High in Millbrae.
But this will be Larsen’s first time coaching girls basketball. He suggested that it might take some adjustment for him, since he spent most of his coaching career working with college athletes. “You don’t want to give them too much that they can’t handle,” he said of his dilemma now. “But you don’t want to give them too little.”
Because of his years coaching at the college level, Larsen said Pitman Principal Rod Hollars and Athletic Director Dave Walls were concerned about having him for more than a season. In fact, the Pride girls basketball team now has had three different coaches in the past three seasons.
“They were reluctant to hire me because they didn’t want to hire me while I was waiting for something else better to come along,” said Larsen, who was first informed about the opening by a parent at his sports academy. “I told them that wasn’t the case, that my daughters are going to be at Pitman for the next four, five years. I really wanted to get back to high school. That’s where I started.”
After Stanislaus, he said he wanted to stay in Turlock and coach basketball. And that’s what he did, as he joined the Backyard Sports Academy and taught private lessons. Larsen’s most notable success story is helping develop the skills of Dominic Romeo, who turned in a standout senior season in 2009-10.
Larsen plans to continue his private lessons while he’s the Pitman girls basketball coach.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.