Lengthy Seashore Poly’s Shelton Diggs on Black Coaches Supporting Every Different

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When Shelton Diggs took over as head coach at Lengthy Seashore Poly Excessive Faculty, he knew what got here with teaching a historic program that has been dominating since the Nineteen Twenties. As an alumni of this system, Diggs was part of the Jackrabbits’ CIF championship staff in ‘97 earlier than occurring to swimsuit up at Western Washington College, the place he was a four-year starter and hung out as a pupil assistant.

Diggs says his choice to return to his alma mater as a coach was a “no brainer.” He was prepared to present again to this system, and served because the JV coach for six years earlier than being named the interim varsity coach going into the 2013-14 season. 

“After I took [the program] over, I didn’t need to be the man within the retailer and there’s a child behind me in line and he tapping on his mother’s shoulder like, ‘Mother, mother that’s the man that tousled the Poly program.’” Diggs says over Zoom. “I’m all Lengthy Seashore, so I’m simply attempting to present again to those youngsters and maintain this factor going as a result of you realize we’ve been round for a very long time and I’m simply attempting to maintain the ball rolling. I like my metropolis; I like Poly. I’m attempting to present again as a lot as I can, take just a little out and also you give rather a lot again in. That’s what I reside by.”

Diggs’ influence on this system was rapid in his first yr: he led this system to a 26-8 report, a Moore League title and this system’s twentieth CIF Southern Part Division 1AA Championship title. In 2016, this system got here near including yet one more title earlier than falling to Serra.

Going into this season, the staff has amassed 2,105 all-time wins (and counting) going again to 1907. For context, no different college within the state of California has greater than 1,800.

Diggs says his ardour for teaching goes past the sport. Having performed for legendary head coach Ron Palmer, he is aware of, firsthand, how impactful this system will be on the lives of younger males, particularly gamers of colour. 

“Someone did this for me so it’s like my job to present it again for the children. I imply quite a lot of the children we coach it’s not nearly basketball it’s serving to them with life expertise. Possibly giving them a trip dwelling after apply as a result of they should stroll by a neighborhood or one thing like that. So, that’s the teaching half exterior of apply.” 

Through the years, Diggs has had former gamers go on to swimsuit up on the collegiate stage, together with Myles Johnson, who graduated in 2017 and spent 4 seasons at Rutgers and most just lately five-star prospect Peyton Watson, who’s presently a freshman at UCLA this season. 

“That was large to me, that’s all-hard work,” Diggs says of Watson being honored as a McDonald’s All American final yr. “I really feel like that doesn’t have rather a lot to do with me. It’s simply my job to place him in the suitable atmosphere and assist him get there. However I really feel like that was all his exhausting work and his dedication that did that. I really feel the identical means when youngsters get scholarships that’s not me, that’s them with all of the exhausting work that they’ve finished. I’m simply type of a vessel to assist them get there however they earned that scholarship…It’s a beautiful feeling to observe him go from a freshman at 6 ft, 130 kilos moist to this now 6’8 195-pound child, it’s an honor to have the ability to watch that, however it’s all his exhausting work it actually don’t received nothing to do with me.” 

SLAM caught up with Diggs to be taught extra about his teaching journey, how he’s carrying the legacy at Lengthy Seashore Poly and what it takes to educate a profitable program at the highschool stage. 

SLAM: What made you resolve to enter teaching and return to your alma mater?

DIGGS: Nicely, I imply I at all times wished to be a coach and my faculty coach, after I received finished enjoying, he at all times noticed that in me. He requested me to come back be a pupil assistant that first yr, so I discovered and I type of fell in love with it extra. I nonetheless wished to be round basketball—I wasn’t adequate to go play abroad or something like that [but] I nonetheless wished to be concerned with basketball, so teaching was type of like the following step for me. I imply Lengthy Seashore Poly that’s my alma mater, I might quit something to come back again and coach right here. I’d coach at no cost, any person did this for me so it’s like my job to present it again for the children, so it was a no brainer coming again to Lengthy Seashore Poly and serving to them out.

I used to be by no means the perfect participant on my staff. I used to be at all times, you realize, only a good man; I began rather a lot, however I used to be at all times a man on the staff who was one of many smarter guys on the staff ensuring we had been operating the performs and stuff like that. I simply at all times noticed myself in teaching: I bear in mind I used to work all of the camps and stuff like that, and I simply loved being round youngsters, I loved watching the children be taught the sport. I wasn’t probably the most gifted so I needed to work on the issues I needed to do to turn into good at basketball and most of those youngsters aren’t tremendous gifted they should work at they need to do to turn into higher and I really feel like I will help them rather a lot with that in order that was one factor that I at all times checked out in teaching. I bear in mind after I was youthful, my mother would even have us be taught the sport—not simply have us play basketball, however she would have us be taught concerning the recreation, study stats. I bear in mind we made our personal little stat ebook and if my brother [AJ] had a recreation, I’d be doing his stats and he’d be doing my stats. It was at all times good for us, she made us be taught the sport and never simply be capable to play the sport of basketball and we be taught the sport I really feel that’ll lead you within the teaching realm as a result of my brothers are coaches, too. That’s what we had been put right here to do. 

SLAM: What’s your teaching model like? How do you strategy teaching a highschool squad?

DIGGS: I’m fiery in apply. In apply and stuff like that you just’ll see me doing quite a lot of speaking, rather a lot transferring round getting on guys rather a lot. In a recreation I really feel that’s their time to do what we’ve taught them. So, I’m much more calm through the recreation [and] I enable my gamers to play as a result of I do all my craziness in apply. 

In highschool, yearly is a distinct yr. You bought a brand new staff, even for those who received guys returning and stuff like that you just received a brand new checklist so yearly you need to take a look at what you may have and type of primarily based what you’re going to do off what you may have. You may’t simply be [like], That is my model and I’m going to play this model yearly and all that. The place I’m at, we’re not getting 6’10, 6’9 [players] yearly, [so] you need to alter to what you may have. That’s the important thing for me, with the ability to take a look at what I’ve for that yr and having the ability as a coach to regulate on the fly. 

SLAM: Have you ever ever thought-about occurring to educate on the collegiate stage?

DIGGS: I imply I give it some thought, however I by no means actually had the chance for that. I wouldn’t even know find out how to get into that—I do know coaches and stuff like that, however I imply I don’t know for those who simply received to ask them, “Hey I need to be an assistant coach.” I simply don’t know the way you go about doing that. However I like the place I’m at. Like I stated, any person did this for me and helped me out and it’s my job to type of give again and assist the children out.

SLAM: How have you ever seen your program progress from once you first began teaching there? How do you’re feeling you’ve grown as a coach?

DIGGS: At Poly, we’ve received a great program, like we’re at all times one of many high groups within the state. It actually wasn’t about making it higher, it’s type of about holding the custom going alongside. Protecting it rolling, holding issues going. Since I’ve been the coach, I felt like I’ve finished an excellent job holding this system going alongside [and] holding our dominance inside our league [as] one of many high groups within the state yearly. Individually as a coach, I’ve turn into rather a lot higher—after I first took over, I felt like I used to be only a hen along with his head lower off, simply on the market being upset with each single name, each bucket I’m tripping. As I’ve grown, I’ve discovered it’s an extended season and also you don’t need to be enjoying your greatest basketball at first of the yr you need to be enjoying on the finish. So, type of with the ability to settle down and sit again and loosen up and let the teachings present by the children as an alternative of each single play, [doing] all the pieces to micromanage. I’ve simply grown [to] perceive what a excessive basketball season [is] about and with the ability to accomplish that aim slightly than attempting to perform that aim on day one.

SLAM: How do you assume extra alternatives can come about for coaches of colour?

DIGGS: It most likely goes each methods. Like on my finish, I must be higher at speaking to coaches which are in faculty, you realize what I imply, assistants or head coaches. I feel I must be higher [at] placing myself on the market. I really feel [that] as soon as we will get extra coaches within the head teaching ranks, that’ll type of trickle down and can be capable to transfer up just a little bit extra, however we simply type of want a much bigger bounce in head coaches as a result of these are the fellows, for my part, which are doing the hiring. We received quite a lot of assistant coaches however the assistants are normally helping. In the long run, you’re not making the ultimate choice so we’d like extra of these guys which are within the place to make the ultimate choice after which I feel it’ll trickle down and can be capable to get extra coaches of colour into the ranks. 

SLAM: What can a company just like the BCA do to help you as a Black head coach?

DIGGS: The BCA has simply helped me get to see different coaches, speak to them and be taught from them, not from a aggressive standpoint. You know the way us Black coaches compete: I see him, he sees me [and] we type of give one another this look…I feel this’ll give me the chance to turn into nearer with different coaches as a result of that’s what we’d like. We received to do that collectively. It’s not simply me in opposition to the world, him in opposition to the world…We’re so aggressive as Black coaches. If I received my staff, he has his staff, I’m not speaking to you, you ain’t speaking to me. I’m from Lengthy Seashore, you’re from LA [and] we type of received that disconnection [like] we’re combating one another. In the long run, [through] the BCA we’re capable of get collectively, we’re working collectively and never simply combating in opposition to one another. 

In the long run, we’re all on this collectively and if we’re going to try to make modifications like we’re attempting to get, we received to do that collectively. It’s not simply Shels [being] the one one which’s going to do it or Reggie Morris from LA [being] the one one which’s going to do it…I feel the BCA has simply helped me personally with that as a result of I’ve that mentality, it’s me in opposition to all people and if I need to transfer on, I’m going to should produce other individuals which are going to assist me similar to I’ve [to help] different individuals out, too. 


Photograph credit score John Napalan, the562.org

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