Modesto Junior College’s Mike Girardi knew at a very early age that he wanted to be a coach.
“I got my first taste of it in eighth grade,” said Girardi, who starred at Merced High and Merced College before graduating from Rice University. “Coach (Larry) Nelson let me coach the sixth-graders.”
The son of the late Chuck Girardi, a successful prep coach at Fresno’s Roosevelt High and the chief lieutenant for Don Reid at MC, Mike Girardi would attend the John Wooden Basketball Camp each year with his father, and each year the Girardis would get a private audience with the Wizard of Westwood.
“My dad would hit record on his little Panasonic recorder,” said Girardi. “We have all those recordings still."
Girardi enjoys coaching so much that he’s taken on a unique post at MJC – coaching both the men’s and women’s teams. It’s a major time commitment, coaching twice as many games and conducting twice as many practices than other coaches.
“I might drink a little more coffee than I usually do,” said Girardi, who said the real challenge comes on the recruiting trail, trying to attend boys and girls games throughout the week.
Some thought it was foolish move when it was announced prior to the 2016-17 season that Girardi would guide both squads. But after Year 2, it's clear that Girardi has figured out how to make it work. He guided the women to a 13-13 record – nearly doubling the seven wins the year before – and to the brink of the California Community College Athletic Association playoffs. The men were even better, improving from 4-22 to 20-9 this year, with their season coming to an end Feb. 23 when the Pirates lost 67-63 to Gavilan in Gilroy. Jaron Dickson scored 20 and Jemeil King 16, but MJC couldn’t overcome the loss of Nick Obazuaye, who fouled out with 3:36 remaining in the contest.
That’s 33 combined victories after just 11 the year before – and 200 percent increase.
Much of that increase can be attributed to the fact that the women’s team had nine sophomores on the roster while the men had eight. All-league selections King and Dickson, and honorable mentions Donte Walker, Anthony Lewis and Obazuaye, along with women’s all-league choice Vai Fesili and honorable mentions Shealyn Craven and Tia Patterson, will be heading to the Sophomore Showcase in Ventura, a one-stop shopping venue for four-year college coaches.
Pirates are getting attention from Division I (Northern Colorado, Texas A&M Corpus Christie) and Division II (Stanislaus State, Humboldt State, Sonoma State, Arizona Christian) school.
“I want to do whatever the college wants me to do,” said Girardi. “I’m just focused on helping our sophomores move on and recruiting.
“With both teams.”