May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Former OC prep star Tino Zaragoza excited to lead Huntington Beach boys team

Tino Zaragoza is the new boys basketball coach at Huntington Beach. (Photo Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone)

Tino Zaragoza, a former Orange County high school basketball standout, is trying to make an impact as the new boys basketball coach at Huntington Beach High School.

Zaragoza, who starred in high school at Northwood, took over for Billy Thompson, who resigned to spend more time with his family. It’s the first varsity coaching assignment for Zaragoza.

“It’s ups and downs, we’re learning,” said Zaragoza during last week’s Grizzly Invitational. “Our number one goal is that we need to play hard. If we can do that and the shots start falling, we’re a scary team. I have a lot of faith in this team.

“It starts with playing hard and getting on the floor and getting dirty and getting bloody. The shots will fall after that.”

Zaragoza took the job in the middle of September.

“It’s almost like a training camp, these games,” he said. “I’m encouraged because every game we’re getting better.”

Zaragoza is familiar with the Huntington Beach program. He was the Oilers’ junior varsity coach the last four years.

“I know a lot of these guys… especially this senior group,” Zaragoza said. “I’m excited. This is where I get my competiveness out.”

Zaragoza has already learned from his former coach at Northwood, Tim O’Brien.

“I saw coach about three weeks ago,” Zaragoza said. “We went over and practiced with him a little bit. It’s always good seeing Coach O’Brien. He’s full of wisdom, he’s almost like a second father figure to me. What he did for me when I was in high school, I can’t say enough good things about coach. He’s a mentor for sure.”

Zaragoza was a star player at Northwood, where he graduated in 2006. He played three years before tearing his ACL in his senior year.

“Tino as a player was one of the best that ever came out of NHS,” said Coach O’Brien. “Unfortunately due to a knee injury he missed his entire senior year. 

“He has matured so much and is a great fit to be a high school coach. He is patient and wants to learn more about the coaching profession. He relates well with players of this generation and will continue to get better. I am so proud of how far Tino has come as a person and a coach.”

Zaragoza hopes that the Oilers, who are off to a 3-7 start, will play like he did in high school and it will result in a successful season.

“That’s what I hope: scrappy, tough, don’t back down,” he said. “Number one, play defense. If you do those things, offense will follow and the shots will come when you play hard.”

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com