Former SBHS player excited to lead Dons
Corey Adam demonstrated the right stuff to be a basketball coach more than two decades ago.
“I remember having to write about myself in a senior year English class,” the Santa Barbara High graduate said. “I wrote about how I wanted to coach later on in my life, but it was one of those things that I never really thought would happen.”
His alma mater, however, believes he’s got the right stuff to be its next varsity boys basketball coach. Adam, SBHS Class of 1996, was named last week to succeed Dave Bregante, who stepped down after leading the Dons to one of the most successful eight-year runs in their history, winning 172 of 227 games.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity,” said Adam, who coached the junior varsity at Santa Barbara High before taking over the varsity program at Carpinteria High last year. “I’m looking forward to continuing the successful program there.”
He played for a Channel League championship Dons’ team that advanced to the 1996 CIF-Southern Section quarterfinals under coach Bob Purdy.
“Mike Garrett was our marquee guy,” Adam recalled. “We lost in the quarters in overtime to Santa Margarita.”
Injuries prevented him from playing in college, but he did coach the Santa Barbara High JVs while attending SBCC from 1998 to 2000. He continued on to Chico State to earn his degree and then returned to Santa Barbara High as a JV coach in 2006.
“Getting to coach as a young man, the most influential males in my life, other than my father, were coach Bob Purdy and coach Joby Nunez,” he said. “Joby was a mentor and a very close family friend of mine since seventh and eighth grades. You’ll never find a better person.”
Nunez, who served as both a coach and administrator in the local high school district, passed away earlier this year.
Adam will inherit a Santa Barbara High varsity that went 29-5 overall and 10-0 in the Channel League last year, advancing to the CIF-SS Division 3A semifinals as well as the second round of the state tournament.
Four of the top seven Dons are expected to return, including Channel League Co-Players of the Year Bryce Warrecker, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, and Stephen Davis, a 6-foot junior point guard. Also among the top returnees are sophomore forward Jasper Johnson and junior guard Jackson Gonzales.
“I’ve had a chance to talk to a couple of them, and we’ll be meeting as a team in a couple of days,” Adam said. “We’ll be starting practice later in the week when finals are done.”
Adam, who has been teaching at La Cuesta High School, will also move over to the staff at Santa Barbara High and teach world history.
“It really helps being on campus in communicating with them, and getting to know them outside the basketball court,” he said. “You get only two hours a day in the gym and it’s not always easy to get to know them and know what makes them tick.
“When you can talk to them about other stuff than basketball, it makes it easier to keep them motivated.”
He coached Warrecker and Gonzales when they were freshmen on the Dons’ JVs two years ago.
“I’ve never coach Jasper, but he was on the varsity when I was coaching the JVs, so there is some familiarity with most of the kids,” Adam said. “Ideally, that should help in the transition – although they are teenagers, so you never know.
“I am excited because I know they’re a great group of kids, and they are coachable. They are hard workers and they’re competitive.”
He got a good look at last year’s Santa Barbara High varsity in the championship game of Carpinteria’s own Jim Bashore Classic when the Dons beat his Warriors 75-47.
“I enjoyed it, and I think most importantly the kids at Carpinteria enjoyed it,” he said. “They knew they were playing a really good basketball team, but they weren’t scared and they embraced the experience.
“We went out and battled them for three quarters before Santa Barbara pulled away.”
Carpinteria High lost its first six games of last season but found its stride at the Bashore Classic, beating Atascadero, Bishop Diego, and Santa Ynez before falling to the Dons. The Warriors continued on to finish second in the Citrus Coast League and advance to the CIF-SS Division 5A semifinals, ending with a 15-15 record.
“It was a combination of getting to know each other and building relationships – and them learning to trust this new guy,” Adam said. “Defense is my calling card, and a lot of it was about getting them to understand the rotations defensively, and the importance of every possession.
“Of those six losses at the beginning of the season, five were by a combined 19 points, so we were right there. Holding the kids’ attention and being positive – letting them know they were right there – while working on a couple of things that we had to get better at allowed us to have that success.”
The Dons played an up-tempo style under Bregante, and Adam said his own style does offer the chance of playing at a brisk pace.
“I’ll try to fit my style with the personnel,” he said. “But if you’re a good defensive team, it can lead to a lot of transition, and we can still be a high-powered offensive team.”