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Takayama earns 500th win

In 24 years, coach has turned alma mater into girls hoops powerhouse
By: Eric J. Gourley, Journal Sports Writer
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LOOMIS — Mike Takayama wasn’t expecting the confetti shower at half court, the standing ovation from a crowd that stayed long after the final whistle of another Del Oro High blowout or the 500 black and gold balloons carried into the gym by his players. In fact, Takayama wasn’t even expecting to coach girls basketball at the school for more than a few years. Takayama won his 500th career game Thursday night when the Golden Eagles routed Nevada Union for their 48th consecutive Sierra Foothill League victory. Clad in a sharp suit, his trademark look since he started coaching at his alma mater in 1986, Takayama joined elite company. Only a dozen other high school girls basketball coaches statewide have reached the 500-win plateau, according to a Cal Hi Sports record book. Only four coaches have won 600 games, including Jim Boyd, who retired after 34 years at Vanden in Solano County with a Sac-Joaquin Section record 614 victories, eighth on the all-time state list. Joe Vaughan, who coached at Buena of Ventura from 1976 to 2007, tops the group with 761. The only other coach in the section to reach 500 wins is El Camino’s Bill Baxter, who entered Thursday night’s game with 569. “Mike Takayama is one of the best, if not the best, girls basketball coach in Northern California, not just based on winning and losing, but on his relationship with his kids,” said athletic director Monte White, who arrived at Del Oro a year after Takayama. “That separates him from a lot of other coaches who might be outstanding coaches but do not develop the respect that Mike has with his players. His players love him. It’s just his genuine care for the kids and his quiet leadership that he displays.” A 1977 Del Oro graduate, Takayama earned a business management degree at UC Davis before returning to Loomis. “I didn’t really know I wanted to coach at that time but I came back,” he said. “I had told a friend if I’m still here in five years then shoot me, and I’m glad he didn’t take me up on that.” Takayama quickly developed a Division III powerhouse, taking the Eagles to their first section title in 1995 and repeating the feat in 1999, when Del Oro also advanced to the NorCal finals. The Eagles have won 12 SFL titles under Takayama and are well on their way to a 13th at 10-0 (21-4 overall). Del Oro is a remarkable 68-4 at home over the last five years. Takayama has graduated consecutive players to Division I programs. Emilie Johnson is making strides as a sophomore at UC Santa Barbara and center Courtney Nolen accepted a full-ride to Eastern Washington last year. “Mike is so humble he doesn’t even think about this kind of stuff,” said Stu Kageta, the volleyball coach at Del Oro. “I’ve always said he’s such an intelligent basketball coach and he creates players who think the game. As coaches, we can’t keep up with him. His mind works so far ahead of other peoples’. I think he’ll realize it when he stops, but this is quite an accomplishment.” As the clock ticked down, players on the bench started a “500” chant. Juniors Madeline Campbell and Crystal Sewell dumped a Gatorade cooler of confetti on the coach, who received a basketball from White to commemorate the milestone. “He’s just an amazing guy and an amazing coach,” Campbell said. “He knows exactly what to say to make you feel better. He knows exactly what to say to make you a better player and person. You know you can come to him for anything and we really rely on him. He’s the glue that holds us together. It’s just amazing what he can do.” Takayama is also the longest-tenured off-campus coach at Del Oro. Many coaches who teach at the school therefore cross paths with their athletes several times a day and don’t face the same challenges. “I think he spends more time here than he does at his office,” White said. “There’s hardly a day that goes by that Mike isn’t on campus. He’s such a gentle, gentle human who is humbled by any recognition, almost to the point of embarrassment. He’s just about the kids. He still loves these kids.” Added Campbell: “We joke around that he doesn’t have a job. This is his job that he does, and I think it’s almost better because we know him as our coach. He’s not a teacher. It feels like a special connection that only the basketball girls know him and get privileged enough to have him.”