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The Boiling Point

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Coach Flava not returning next year

Known for life lessons, longtime coach took girls basketball teams to Galbut and Glouberman championships and CIF state semi-finals

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Coach Ronnie “Flava” Winbush, who led the Firehawk girls basketball team to win the first-ever Steve Glouberman Tournament in 2015 and to the CIF Southern Section 6 Division Championship in 2014, will not return next year, he announced yesterday in a text to a team-wide group chat for the girls’ basketball team.

BP Photo by Katia Surpin

CHAMPIONS: Coach Ronnie 'Flava' Winbush shared a cheer with the Lady Firehawks before the their first game at the Steve Glouberman Tournament in 2015. The team went on to be tournament champions.

 

“No workout tonight…I’ve just been told that I’m no longer the girls head basketball coach at Shalhevet High School…they are moving in a different direction…no workout tonight,” wrote Coach Flava, who has coached at Shalhevet since 2006.

The girls responded immediately with surprise and distress. A stream of comments along the lines of “No” and “What!?” poured into the chat.

“He is a great coach, not only for basketball logistics but he always taught us life skills that I used outside the court,” said junior Loren Edry in an interview. “Him coaching my senior year was one of the experiences I have been looking forward to, and it is so unfortunate that I will not be experiencing it next year.”

Loren said she’d remember his phrase, “If you stay ready, you don’t gotta get ready.”  Her sister Caroline, a freshman on the team, said she’d learned, “If we are ever struggling with something, return to the basics, the fundamentals.” 

Flava — whose nickname was assigned by friends during his childhood because he generally did things with a different “flavor” — started out in 2006 as the head coach of Shalhevet’s varsity basketball team and was Athletic Director in the high school from 2010 to 2012. He also served as PE teacher in Shalhevet’s old middle school, and at Pressman and Hillel, two of Shalhevet’s feeder schools.

He said he was surprised by the news but bore no ill will to Shalhevet.

“Shalhevet’s been great, no bad words, nothing bad to say about them, it’s been wonderful,” Coach Flava said in an interview last night.  “I’m not sure what direction they’re going in that I’m not going, I don’t know, this is out of the blue to me.”

Current Athletic Director Coach Ryan Coleman said he could not comment on the specifics of what was meant by wanting to “move in a different direction,” citing confidentiality of personnel issues.

He said the school does not yet have a replacement for Coach Flava and that the process for finding a new coach would involve posting an advertisement on the CIF website and reaching out to people “in the basketball community.”

But the department does have goals for next year.

“Just in general, player development, organization on the floor, that’s it,” Coach Ryan said.

Alumna Sigal Spitzer ‘15, a star on the girls basketball team for all of high school, said Flava was “an incredible coach” who “embodies life lessons both on and off the court.”

“Big loss for the girls basketball team and for the entire school,” wrote Sigal in an email to the Boiling Point. “He nurtured me with his timeless dedication to the game, resulting in countless championships, team awards and opportunities for growth during each season.

“I continuously use the basketball mindset Flav helped me develop in high school to tackle challenges in college and approach setbacks in life. Flav was always a role model and mentor, radiating positive energy in the Shalhevet hallways throughout my entire high school career.”

Coach Flava grew up in South Central Los Angeles, attended Crenshaw High School and played basketball at Azusa Pacific, where he was named player of the year in the Golden State Athletic Conference.  

His big break came when Magic Johnson — his idol — saw him playing at a gym in Hawthorne one day and invited him to join Magic Johnson’s All-Stars, a team Flava traveled with for eight months in Mexico and Japan. After that he played with teams in Germany, France, Switzerland and Hong Kong, Flava told the Boiling Point in 2011.

“He [Magic] saw he liked what I brought to the court,” Flava said, recalling how he had trained at the Inglewood Forum – home to the L.A. Lakers at the time – learning from one of the best.

A highly visible presence on the court at 6’8″, Coach Flava could be seen at games communicating with players on the court and, even more often, working with girls after school whether it was basketball season or not.  Last night’s practice that was cancelled was two months after the most recent game and seven months before the next one.

He said his biggest accomplishment was the girls’ team reaching the CIF Division 6 Southern Section championship in 2014 — just as the boys varsity team this did this year.  Like this year’s  boys’ team, the girls lost championship game, which was played in Oxnard against Valley Christian Academy.

But won the Steve Glouberman Tournament championship in its first year in 2016, and the Hyman Galbut tournament championship in Miami– the girls equivalent of Sarachek — in 2015.

Coach Flava said he loved coaching the girls, and that he would miss “their spirit” the most.

“The love that they have for each other, and how hard they work for each other, and seeing them grow and get better,” Coach Flava said.

Coach Coleman said Flava’s tenure is appreciated.

“In one regard or another he has been here for many years, and he has contributed to the boys’ basketball program, the girls’ basketball program, and he was Athletic Director as well,” Ryan said. “So having his hand in several different programs in the school is definitely something the school appreciates.”

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Coach Flava not returning next year