One of Gig Harbor’s own is now a Division-I basketball head coach.
1996 Gig Harbor High School graduate Sam Scholl has been appointed as the interim head men’s basketball coach at the University of San Diego.
Normally, this would be cause for celebration. But the interim tag is a result of some unfortunate circumstances at USD.
Head coach Lamont Smith was placed on paid administrative leave after being arrested on suspicion of domestic violence in San Francisco at 10:15 a.m. on Sunday before the team’s flight back to San Diego, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.
For the USD basketball team, it’s been a tough couple days.
“It’s been full of every kind of different emotions that we’ve all had a basketball program that we’ve had to talk about and work through,” Scholl said. “We’re all one unified team ready to go take advantage of a really special opportunity we have on Saturday (in the West Coast Conference tournament).”
Scholl said he is planning on tackling the head coaching job collaboratively.
“We’ve very blessed to have a great coaching staff that works really well together,” Scholl said. “That’s not going to change. That’s how we’ve always done things. We’re going to continue to do that in a big week. We’ve been together as a team, spent a lot of time together as a team the past 48 hours. The guys, it was our first practice back today, they were really excited to practice and just play basketball.”
It’s probably not the way Scholl imagined getting his first D-1 head coaching title — especially since he played with Smith at USD in the late 1990s, and the two are friends — but he’s excited for the challenge nonetheless.
“It’s a little bittersweet obviously, in terms of how it came about,” Scholl said. “But I’m excited that we have a great group of coaches together and a great group of guys. We have strong-willed, high-character guys. I’m excited to work together with everyone.”
Scholl said the response from the Gig Harbor community has been overwhelming the past couple days. Scholl was part of the 1996 Gig Harbor High School state championship basketball team, which recently had a 20-year celebration.
“It’s been awesome with my family, friends, my old high school teammates, all my high school coaches,” Scholl said. “There have been a lot of great messages and support from the Gig Harbor community. I’m still about 60 text messages behind. I knocked out about 40 late last night.”
USD opens the WCC tournament against the conference’s No. 3 seed, Brigham Young University, on Saturday, March 3 at 1 p.m. The WCC tournament is held at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. USD split the regular season series with BYU.