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Phone call leads to dream for Lavdiotis at Miramonte

Miramonte advanced to the NCS semifinals in Chris Lavdiotis' first year. Photo courtesy of Chris Lavdiotis

Last July, Chris Lavdiotis received a phone call that ultimately led to one of the biggest stories in Bay Area basketball.

Bill Mellis, the head coach at Salesian and a close friend of Lavidotis, reached out. Right after that, Eric Bamberger, the former coach at Clayton Valley Charter, called.

Bamberger told Lavdiotis that Miramonte’s head coach, Wayne Hunter, had just resigned, so Lavdiotis then contacted Hunter to confirm the news.  

“I said, ‘Wayne, is it true?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ He goes, ‘Lav, I just resigned today. You should apply for the job.’ “

Lavdiotis applied, and one month later the news was official on August 26: Lavdiotis was Miramonte’s next coach, taking over a team that went 17-11 and was a North Coast Section quarterfinalist the year prior.

“Now I look back and I just say, ‘Boy, just the right place at the right time,’” Lavdiotis said. “And got a phone call from one of my best friends to alert me to the job opening, so it was kind of what you would say fortuitous. When I got hired I was floored. Really happy.”

Lavdiotis, whose previous experience includes 24 years at Piedmont and also one year as the head coach at Lowell, noticed something special as soon as he stepped foot on Miramonte’s campus.

The senior leadership was there. The three senior captains called out teammates the right way, and they also held themselves accountable. 

It could have easily been different, though, especially with a new coaching staff rolling through during their final high school campaign.

Yet the leadership was there, setting the framework right from the start into what would become a masterful 2019-20 season on the hardwood.

“We all hit it off right away,” Lavdiotis said. “We were just real open with each other. I considered myself to be very lucky to coach those kids. We’re going to keep building that way.”

Miramonte went 16-13 overall and 6-6 in a challenging Diablo – Foothill League slate that featured a Campolindo squad that won a CIF Division II state crown the year prior in 2019 and advanced to the CIF Division I state championship game in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the final basketball contests of the season.

The Matadors got hot at just the right time, too. 

From Jan. 20 to Feb. 13 – the final date of the regular season – Miramonte went 6-4, with three of those four defeats coming by three points or fewer. It earned a nO. 5 seed in the North Coast Section Division III bracket, which is when its magic continued and the train kept on rolling to become one of the most dangerous teams in the region.

The first round was a 71-38 rout of No. 12 seed San Rafael, followed by a 66-54 win ver No. 4 seed Piner before falling by six points to top-seeded Branson – who compiled a 30-4 overall record – in the semifinals.

“My buddy Cam Quick at Alameda High School about four years ago got on that role, three years ago,” Lavdiotis said. “And Alameda rode it to the state championship game in DII. Unbelievable. They got hot. Everything worked. I tell everybody, ‘You know what? If you’re playing great ball as the season is winding down, you’ve got a chance.’”

A stellar defensive displayed played a key factor in the Matadors’ lengthy yearn holding opponents to 51.6 points per game and three teams in the final games to less than 45 points with a stingy packline defense that has been notorious by Tony Bennett – the head coach at the University of Virginia, which won a national title in 2019 – and Bennett’s father, Dick Bennett.

What helped make it so successful, particularly down the stretch, was an assist from some former players.

“I brought in a set of alums before our first round game against San Rafael, before our second round game up at Piner, who was a darn good team and then before the semifinal game at Branson,” Lavdiotis said. “And we had our scouting report that we had gone over. We went over our gameplan, our defensive gameplan and then we had our scout team run that stuff. Not our players, but older guys, alums, run it against us. 

“The last thing that made us a better defensive team last year, too, was Rich Forslund joined me as an assistant coach, and Rich coached at Half Moon Bay for a long time and back in the day coached very successfully at Riordan, where they won a state title. Rich is one of the best coaches around, and he helped us so much on the defensive end with aggressiveness.”

And Lavdiotis loves what he has coming back. 

Despite graduating a talented and high character senior class of six players, those coming through the ranks embody everything he wants in his program and are carrying on what they learned from the previous upperclassmen.

“These guys obviously have been lifting weights and conditioning really well,” Lavdiotis said. “What excites us is we’ve got some skill, we’ve got guys who love to play. They love to play together. They’re very coachable. They want to be good. They want to be a good team. 

“They’ve got talent. And they don’t have the kind of talent where they walk around thinking I’m the greatest. They carry themselves nicely. It’s a nice mix between a little swag and confidence. And I love it. But to me they’re really coachable kids. They want to get better.”

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