Bay Area schools with their own coach Carter

Mitch Stephens

It’s nice to see a high school coach — in this case, former Richmond boys basketball coach Ken Carter — being recognized on the silver screen.

Samuel L. Jackson stars as “Coach Carter,” an inspirational tale that premieres Friday nationwide.

Here are a just a few real-life examples of current inner-city East Bay boys basketball coaches making a big difference:

* Hodari McGavock (Oakland Tech): For 24 seasons, McGavock has given much more than 455 wins and two Northern California Division I championships. A calm, Zen-like personality, a cool head, McGavock is much more concerned with building families than dynasties. He doesn’t mind telling folks that Tech graduates Leon Powe (Cal), Quentin Thomas (North Carolina), Ken Smith (Eastern Washington) and Armondo Surratt (USF) are all college players. He’s more proud that each is doing well in school. “Believe it or not, every one of them is a better person than a player,” McGavock said.

What keeps him coming back? “I love the kids and want them all to have a better life,” he said.

* Dwight Nathaniel (McClymonds): A tough, no-nonsense sort who grew up in West Oakland and attended McClymonds, Nathaniel has coached more than 10 Division I players since taking over the program in 1992. His most famous are current UConn guard Antonio Kellogg and former USF forward Darrell Tucker. Nathaniel’s most memorable moment, he said, was a collect phone call he received at midnight from a former player now playing in Canada.

“Coach did you hear about the dunk I had up here? They’ve been talking about it for a week?” the player said.

Nathaniel: “You’re calling me collect at midnight from another country to tell me about a dunk?”

The player: “No, not really. The real reason I called was to thank you for all the extra time you spent with me making me a better player and keeping me eligible and just caring. If you hadn’t spent all that time, I probably would be out on the streets selling dope.”

Nathaniel said later: “That call meant as much to me as any victory or championship.”

* Lou Richie and Tony Freccero (Bishop O’Dowd): These former Bishop O’Dowd players have been assistant coaches for only a combined six years, but they are making an impact throughout the Bay Area with their Triple Threat Academy camps.

The duo teamed with Hook Mitchell among other community leaders last weekend to put on the first annual New Year’s Hook Camp. The teens were not only given basketball training from former NBA star Brian Shaw and the state’s winningest high school coach, Mike Phelps, but Richie brought in eight professionals from all walks of life. Though basketball junkies, Richie, 33, and Freccero, 27, preach and teach real-life skills. Their youth and passion make it easy for teens to relate.

“My dad always told me that coaches are the most important and influential people in the world,” Richie said. “I want to do this until the day I die.”

* Bill Mellis, Ed Foster, Russell Ware, Tom Bauer (Salesian): This foursome has put in a combined 36 years into one of the Bay Area’s most consistent, healthy and academically impressive programs. Foster, one of three assistants to Mellis, has been there the longest, since 1992. “We wear a lot of hats on this job,” Foster said. “We go from being a father figure to a big brother to guidance counselor and, oh yes, a basketball coach. It’s never easy but always rewarding.”

* Rob Collins (Richmond): After 19 seasons coaching at Las Lomas and Acalanes, Collins moved from the suburbs to take over for Carter three seasons ago. A hard-liner and disciplinarian, Collins’ heart is bigger than any movie screen. He donated his coaching stipend last season to a depleted Richmond school district. Collins is a superb tactician on the court and a better mentor off of it.

“Kids are kids whether they live in Lafayette or Richmond,” Collins said. “They might come from different cultures and value different things, but they all want to be cared about. I just want to give these kids someone they can trust and some mentorship so they get to the next step in life.”