by Larry Ham
Immanuel High School has a rich sports tradition, and the school’s basketball program has been especially successful in the past decade. Any coach who steps into the head coaching spot for Immanuel is stepping into high expectations, and C.J. Haydock is the new man on the hot seat.
Haydock takes over for Todd Croissant this season, and will try to turn things around after a very difficult 2010-11 season. I recently had the opportunity to ask C.J. a few questions about what he expects of himself and his team this season.
Larry: First, share with us your background – where you were born, where you grew up and went to school.
CJ: I was born in Bellflower (near Long Beach), and my family moved to Clovis when I was in 5th grade. My formative years were spent in Clovis and Fresno. I graduated from Fresno Christian in 2003, where I played basketball, and was exposed to some tremendous coaches and inspiring leaders. I also later graduated from Fresno Pacific.
Larry: What sports did you play as a student, and when did you get interested in coaching?
CJ: I was a basketball junkie as a high schooler, and really fell in love with the privilege of being a teammate, the joy of competing, and the process of sacrifice, hard work, selflessness, and communication demands. I also was blessed to play for a terrific coach named Chris Schultz (who is on my staff at Immanuel now) who not only had a great basketball mind, but gave his whole life to his student-athletes. Coach Schultz remains not only the largest coaching influence that inspired me to coach, but one of the most impacting relationships I have ever had.
Larry: Where did you coach before you came to Immanuel?
CJ: I started off at my alma mater, Fresno Christian. I coached there for four years, then became the varsity head coach at Liberty-Madera Ranchos. My last stop was at Clovis North, where we won a Valley championship last year.
Larry: What were some of the reasons you felt that Immanuel was a good fit for your coaching skills?
CJ: My high school years were the peak of Immanuel’s athletic prowess, and I observed firsthand the special, vibrant basketball community that Coach John Thiesen built. When i interviewed at Immanuel, i started to believe the administrative and community support were still there to return to those heights. Now that I am here, I am convinced that those days are not over, just on a short hiatus. The intersection of faith and excellence in athletics holds great appeal to me, and the rich tradition, community support, and facilities are second to no other small school.
Larry: You mentioned Immanuel’s tradition of basketball success. Do you feel pressure at all to bring back the “glory days”?
CJ: Absolutely. It’s the best motivator for me, personally. I have had a few conversations with Coach Thiesen, and I am in awe that I get to sit in the seat he sat in (or Don Knaak or Wayne Wiebe for that matter), so there is a very real “pressure” in that. However, that only serves to positively motivate us and our program. We don’t want to shrink from our tradition – we want the opposite – to connect with it and understand where we have been and what we can be. We had coach Thiesen come and share with us earlier this year, and we want our guys to embrace the privilege, history, and pride that comes with Immanuel basketball. Because, to me, that turns from pressure into something that can be aspired to.
Larry: What kind of team will we see on the floor this season?
CJ: That’s a tough question. First and foremost, we will be a passionate team with a lot of chemistry. We have some fighters. I think we have a group of selfless guys willing to grind it out, put aside selfish agendas, and lay the foundation for both the culture and system we want to create at Immanuel. I am and always have been a defense first coach, so we will be committed to that end of the floor, doing whatever it takes to get stops. Offensively, we run a hybrid motion/high low/Princeton offense, and we either score quickly in transition or try to control possession and make people guard us for an extended period time with a variety of reads we can make.
Larry: Who are the players you are counting on to really set up and be leaders?
CJ: We have a couple seniors who have really endured some of the turmoil from the last few years, and have emerged as tough, hungry young men as a result. Dmitri March is an all around outstanding young man, who is a vocal, encouraging teammate. Jake Wolfe has made great strides, both in his basketball skills and the kind of young man he is, and leads by demonstrating a ferocious work ethic. Cameron Reynolds has some abilities that other guys admire, and he embraces quiet leadership, coming alongside guys when they need encouragement or correction. All of our returners, including Jon George and Matt Agnew, have really bought in early on, trusting our wisdom as a coaching staff, willing to be corrected, change some of their negative habits, and do whatever is asked of them.
Larry: How do you like teaching and coaching at Immanuel so far?
CJ: I love it. The environment, administration, students, community… I have nothing to complain about. The support thus far has been tremendous.
Larry: Wins and losses are always used to measure success in sports, but what do you look for, besides wins, to gauge your team’s growth?
CJ: For our juniors and seniors, we want to see them lay the foundational components of where we are going with our program. There is no measurable tangible element to that, but the way they put in time and effort, the way they communicate, the way they sacrifice their pride and bodies for their teammates, the way the carry themselves as students, and the way they respond to adversity are all things that they get to establish for a new era of Immanuel basketball. We want them to come back and watch in five years, and recognize those qualities and the culture created, and be proud that they were the class that established the cultural norm that equips our program to create successful students, athletes, future husbands and fathers and professionals.
Larry: What are your goals for the Eagles this season?
CJ: We have several short term objectives. I have personal goals I want to see us achieve, and we have team goals our student-athletes established and decided on together. Both of those are specific to this year, and they are for our guys only, as we feel those are only for our inner circle who put in the work in the classroom, gym, and weight room. However, I can tell you our long-term program objectives, which are on the front of every handout we distribute, and plastered prominently on the door of my office:
1. Consistently produce alumni who are young men of great character, successful in whatever endeavors they choose.
2. Compete for league championships every year
3. Place players in college athletics
4. Produce all league and city/county players every year.
5. Win section championships
6. Never fall below a collective GPA of 3.0
So far, so good for the Eagles. C.J. got his first win as Immanuel’s Coach with a good win against Woodlake this past Tuesday night. The team played just as C.J. said they would – gritty in your face defense, and a great scoring night from Jake Wolfe, who scored a career high 30 points.
C.J. Haydock is a passionate and committed coach – and he’s just what the Eagles need at a transitional time for the Immanuel athletic department. It’s going to be really fun watching this team grow this season.