Coaching basketball in the West Catholic Athletic League tends to require ties from a close-knit group.
Of the seven returning coaches in the league, five are alumni of WCAL schools, and a sixth, Valley Christian’s Mark DeLuca, attended St. Patrick in Vallejo after moving to the Bay Area from Indiana during his adolescence. If you extend that group to include Brian Carson, who served as Serra’s interim head coach during the 2019-20 season, he didn’t go to a WCAL school, but as an alumnus of Burlingame, he grew up well within the league’s territory. Only St. Francis boss Mike Motil, who grew up in Ohio, doesn’t have any sort of childhood roots in the Bay Area.
That background doesn’t fit new St. Ignatius head coach Jason Greenfield, who grew up in Boston and spent his college years at Trinity (Connecticut, a school whose athletic department is most known for the squash program’s 252-game winning streak). Having moved to San Francisco in 2000 to work in the finance industry, Greenfield spent three years as an assistant on Randy Bessolo’s staff at University before spending the 2019-20 season as USF’s Director of Analytics.
“While I may not have some of the institutional knowledge that some of the WCAL coaches have, from a competitive standpoint, I’m comfortable,” Greenfield said. “At USF, we had three games against Gonzaga and played Saint Mary’s and BYU twice. Those are top-30 programs.”
When the Wildcats take the floor in the winter, Greenfield will get a similar crash course to the one he got in the West Coast Conference. In addition to the loaded WCAL schedule, SI will also have nonleague contests against the likes of Moreau Catholic, which will provide a quick test for his young roster. The 2019-20 St. Ignatius team had three sophomores get playing time in Ryan Conroy, Rory Kenneally and GC Toledo Rivera, a freshman point guard in King-Jhsanni Wilhite and a strong JV team that had center John Squire called up at the end of the season. Greenfield has yet to work with the team in full, but with restrictions loosening up, he should be able to get his first taste in the coming weeks.
“Jason’s leadership, vision and his analytical approach set him apart from the other candidates,” athletic director John Mulkerrins said. “I’m confident he’ll continue to develop a young and talented team to compete at the highest level in the league, section and state. His up-tempo style of play and his experience working with renowned and highly respected coaches like Randy Bessolo and Todd Golden are all reasons why he’s at the helm of the SI basketball program.”
Though Greenfield may not possess the bloodlines in the local scene that some of his peers may have, he does seem to quickly make a good impression. During his year at USF, his former players from University regularly made visits to the Hilltop to extend their support.
“Jason is not only the best coach I’ve ever had, but also a great mentor and friend,” said JK Baker, who graduated from University last week. “He combines a great sense of humor and a serious commitment to winning basketball in a way few coaches can. SI is lucky to have him, and I have no doubt that he’ll be successful in this new role.”
Fans should expect the Wildcats to play a free-flowing style under Greenfield, one that reflects the teachings of both Bessolo and Golden.
“Philosophically, I’m a modern basketball guy. I believe in the three more than the two,” Greenfield explained. “I like spacing, giving my guys a chance to beat their man or set somebody else up. We’re gonna be fun to play with and we’re gonna move the ball.”
Greenfield won’t be the only new coach at SI with ties to the Bay Counties League. Maya Fok, a 1998 St. Ignatius graduate, was named the new head coach of the girls basketball program after spending the prior six years at Urban.