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Longtime Del Oro coach honored

Takayama named Model Coach by Sac-Joaquin section
By: Justin A. Lawson
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LOOMIS – John Wooden’s atypical approach to coaching – not yelling and every player is as important as the next – led to 10 straight NCAA championships. Legendary Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson used his Buddhist principles to earn nine NBA titles. Locally, Del Oro High girls basketball coach Mike Takayama has used his against-the-grain approach to a resounding 13 Sierra Foothill League titles, which includes his current streak of seven straight. For his contributions over the last 26 years, Takayama was named a Model Coach earlier this month by the Sac-Joaquin Section of the California Interscholistic Federation. “Well, I’m definitely not the Zen master like Phil Jackson, if that’s what you’re trying to get me to say,” said Takayama, who is a lifelong member of the Buddhist church. Takayama, who will receive the award during a breakfast ceremony in April, was one of six Sac-Joaquin Section coaches given the award this year. He was joined by Diane Heine of Christian Brothers, Michael Papadopoulos of Vacaville, Kelly Rhoden of Nevada Union, Roddy Svendsen of Atwater and Janice Williams of Galt. The award, which is in its eighth year, honors coaches who are positive role models in schools and throughout the community. To date, 68 coaches have received the award. Takayama is the second Del Oro coach to be honored with the award joining former cross country coach Joan Lewis (2003-04). Takayama may be more Wooden than Jackson. The booming voices of basketball coaches have become the norm in most levels of basketball but to hear Takayama give instructions to his players you almost have to stand next to him. “I’ve known Mike for gees, I think 20-plus years and I think maybe you heard that he yelled at his players maybe one time,” said Del Oro athletic director Justin Cutts. “I mean, he’s just a real positive person. He doesn’t cut players, he wants people to be part of the experience. I think the kids really like him, they play hard for him.” His quiet demeanor could be seen as weakness or shyness but with Takayama it’s a sign of the respect he has for his players. The girls tend to hold themselves to a high standard and serve as coaches on the floor, often correcting themselves or others when needed. More often than not, the players are the ones doing the yelling. “I just feel like when he coaches he’s positive but when he needs to he’s always assertive and gives really good criticism,” said senior guard Paige Kim. “He’s just all around a good guy, it’s a real joy to play with him.” While Takayama admits that his religious upbringing gave him a sense that there are things that are bigger than himself and that you should also strive to be better, lessons that transcend any one religion, he doesn’t relate his coaching philosophy to Buddhism. Instead, he cites some of his former coaches from Little League baseball to church-league basketball and up to his time playing for Del Oro. Takayama graduated from Del Oro in 1977 where during that time he played basketball for John Rankin, who was inducted into the Del Oro Hall of Fame earlier this year. “They were just such great mentors and human beings,” said Takayama of his former coaches. “I’m just trying to give back now and this is one way and for me to receive the honor, it’s great but it’s also kind of a way for me to thank my coaches who have coached me in the past.” One day Takayama will spin those lessons forward. More than of a quarter century of coaching is a long time for anyone. Takayama isn’t in a hurry to announce his retirement yet but he looks forward to keeping Del Oro’s tradition going. “I know there’ll come a time and I was thinking that coach (Candis) Bailey, my assistant, would be taking over pretty soon but she’s pregnant now, maybe that could be a little longer now, it may not,” Takayma said. “With the great people around me the whole thing is kind of on autopilot. The girls and captains do such an outstanding job of really carrying on the tradition and we’re just really proud of what we’ve built and this definitely isn’t a culmination because (I’m) definitely not retiring right now or anything but at the same time we’re definitely proud of what we’ve done.”