STHS alum coaches Foothill to second state title |

STHS alum coaches Foothill to second state title

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

Foothill head coach Drew Hibbs makes his point during their game against Highlands High School at Arco Arena, Friday March 7, 2003. Foothill High School beat Highlands High School 71-43.

In six seasons at Foothill High in North Highlands, Calif., Drew Hibbs has equalled what it took mentor Tom Orlich 16 years to accomplish at South Tahoe High.

Yes, the former all-league player for the Vikings has a knack for winning state championships.

His Foothill Mustangs won the school’s second California Interscholastic Federation state boys’ basketball championship Saturday at Arco Arena in Sacramento. The Mustangs defeated Harvard-Westlake 66-62 for the Division III crown, despite nearly blowing a 17-point fourth-quarter lead.

“This one was better,” said the 36-year-old Hibbs, who also coached the Mustangs to the CIF Division II championship in 1994. “This is where we wanted to be, what we wanted to do and that creates a lot of pressure. When we won it, it was a big relief.”

After directing the Mustangs to their first state title, Hibbs, then 30, took his successful coaching style to Sierra College in Rocklin. Three of his four teams made the postseason, including one appearance in the regional finals, before he was inexplicably let go following the 1997-98 season.

Two years without coaching dragged by before Hibbs returned to the roots of his success.

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“The coach here took another position and by that time I was the AD. I hired myself back,” Hibbs said of his 2000-01 return as Foothill coach. “The overall impact to the student athlete is greater at the high school level. It’s more rewarding.”

Essentially he has himself to thank for what transpired over the past three years. His first team in his second term at Foothill advanced to the Division II San Joaquin Section semifinals where the Mustangs were eliminated by Rocklin.

Last year, Foothill won league and section champions before losing to Archbishop Riordan-San Francisco in a Division III NorCal semifinal by three points in overtime.

Welcoming back a core of three-year varsity players, the goal was obvious this season.

“This year, the only goal in our mind was to win state,” said Hibbs, who was assisted by 1978-79 Golden Empire League MVP Kevin Kelly, also a Viking alum. “A lot of people set out with that goal, but only one team can do it. It makes it that much more rewarding.”

During the regular season Hibbs made an emotional trip to West Clovis to face his former high school coach. When Orlich was coaching at STHS, Hibbs occasionally brought his Foothill teams to South Lake Tahoe for preseason scrimmages. Orlich won Nevada state titles in 1987 and 1992.

But in their first game of record, the pupil got the best of his former coach. Hibbs’ team won 80-75.

“We didn’t want to lose, but at the same time we wanted him to do well,” Hibbs said.

Orlich watched Hibbs win his second championship on Saturday and several other longtime friends from South Lake Tahoe made the trip to Arco to offer their support.

“It was a fun game to watch and it was more fun hanging out and celebrating with them afterward,” said Mark Shehadi, who was in the same STHS graduation class with Hibbs in 1984.

Hibbs was selected as a Northern Nevada League MVP while setting a season scoring record of 582 points during the 1983-84 season.

“He set the scoring record and he had it until Jerod (Haase) came along. There was no three-point line,” Shehadi said. “Drew could hit outside and drive the lane. He was a special basketball player.”

Additional commitments kept Hibbs from savoring his latest title. On Monday, he took the coed tennis team to Golden Sierra for a scrimmage. In addition to tennis and basketball, he also coaches cross country running.

But Hibbs thrives when his days are packed with coaching. He only needs to reflect back to three years ago when he was out of coaching entirely.

Even so, he never entertained the idea of coaching at his alma mater when Orlich left after the 1999-2000 season.

“The constant winters, and coach mentioned it as well, it wears on you after a while,” he said.