MANTECA -- Scott Thomason likes where he is, but it's not where he wants to be.
If that sounds like a contradiction, sorry. On the other hand, the Sierra High School boys basketball coach is laying the foundation of a nice career by going against the flow.
The professional goal of Thomason, a third-generation basketball coach, is a job where his entire responsibility is basketball.
It could be at the college level, where when not coaching he'd be wooing recruits or glad-handing boosters. Or it could be in the NBA, where survival is based on winning and nothing but basketball matters.
"I want to get into the situation where I'm doing basketball 24/7," Thomason said. "I don't want to teach badminton, softball and archery during P.E. and then worry about practice. I want to be in that basketball office and I want to recruit players, develop those relationships."
Thomason, a graduate of Turlock High and the University of the Pacific, insists he's happy at Sierra. He says he loves the kids and appreciates the support he gets from the school. He's repaid the school for that support with a 137-83 (.622) record over eight seasons.
He's never had a losing record, he's missed the section playoffs only once and currently has the Timberwolves in the thick of the Valley Oak League race with a 14-4 overall record.
And he's accomplished all this despite never having a player in the program taller than 6-feet, 4-inches.
Thomason, 31 and single, is in a position where he could stay at Sierra, win 600 games over a 40-year career, live comfortably and retire a local legend. He wants more, but he's just uncertain as to the next step on his career path.
Forty years ago, it was common for aspiring college coaches to take an entry-level high school job, move to a larger high school and perhaps grab a community college post for a few years before moving on to a four-year school.
That's exactly the career path taken by Bob Thomason, Scott's dad, who was the head coach at Escalon High for three years, then Turlock High for five before jumping to Columbia College, CSU-Stanislaus and then -- exactly 20 years ago -- Pacific.
But more and more, college head-coaching jobs are being filled not by young coaches out of high schools but by top assistant coaches at other four-year schools. It's almost as if you have to be a college coach to become a college coach, and that's a barrier Thomason knows he'll have to break.
"Tony Marcopulos (Cabrillo College head coach and former Pacific assistant) always disagreed with me taking the high school route to college coaching," Thomason said. "He says you have to be a college coach to get a college job. I tell him to hurry up and get a Division I job so he can hire me."
On the other hand, Thomason insists there's no way being a college assistant coach can give you the breadth of experience that comes with being in charge of a program -- no matter the level.
"To run a program, run camps, develop and run your own system, develop coaches ... you can't get that experience being an assistant coach or manager in a college program," Thomason said.
Thomason has had the chance to move from Sierra at least twice. Following his first year on the job, his father offered him a spot on his staff at Pacific. Scott Thomason turned it down.
"Not too many people have told me that was a smart decision, but I like this situation," Thomason said. "I can run my own plays, hold practice when I want.
"People who know me know I'm my own person. My dad supports me and I support him, but I'm going to do my own thing."
Just last summer Thomason put his name in the running for the head coaching job at Oakdale High, then withdrew it just before the school board was to convene to make a decision.
Oakdale was an attractive position to Thomason for several reasons. He lives in Oakdale and could walk to work. Also, with another high school on Manteca's near-horizon, Thomason's already-thin talent pool at Sierra is set to be diluted.
"It came down to the fact that I love the kids at Sierra and I didn't want to leave them," Thomason said. "And I didn't want to make a parallel move, especially one that would have kept me in the same league. The next move I make will be up."
"I'm willing to go anywhere," he said. "I'll coach in Alaska if I need to. But I have a mortgage and make decent money. Do I want to go from this to making $10,000 as a manager for a Division I program and not be able to pay the bills? It's about the right job and the right situation."
Thomason is willing to wait. He's confident that if he continues to work hard, continues to win and continues to be patient, the right door will open.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.
SUCCESSFULLY LEADING THE WAY