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Corona Centennial Basketball Coach Josh Giles has his Dream Team

By Eric Sondheimer - LA Times Columnist, 02/05/20, 8:45AM PST

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If there were an award for high school basketball coach of the year for the regular season, Josh Giles of Corona Centennial would be the runaway winner.

Three months ago, most experts projected Centennial as a team on the decline because three senior starters with college potential left for other schools.

Giles, in his 17th season, accepted the rejection of his program as a challenge.

“Let’s go,” he said. “We’ll figure out a way.”

Fast forward to the Huskies’ game last week against Norco. Paris Dawson, the Huskies’ best senior, scored two points in an 84-43 victory. Jared McCain, a freshman, scored 37 points, making nine three-point shots. It said everything you need to know about the most surprising team in Southern California.

It’s a remarkable message for high school basketball at the highest level, turning upside down the idea that talent, glitz and social media stardom trumps everything.

Few teams play as hard as or with the unselfishness of the Huskies (26-2), the likely No. 2 seed for the Southern Section Open Division playoffs when pairings are announced Sunday.

“We play really hard,” Giles said. “It makes up for everything.”

The Huskies wear down teams, play consistent help defense and have a group of talented young players that improve every week.

“When you see us play, you see us scrambling and running around the floor,” Giles said. “We practice that every day. We do those scrambling drills and help-and-recovery drills every single day, so when we get into a game, it’s nothing you haven’t seen.”

But even Giles is surprised at the Huskies’ impressive record.

“If you would have told me what you thought our record would be and what it is now, I would have thought you’re crazy because I didn’t change our schedule,” he said. “We have three sophomores and three freshmen, and five of those six players play every game a lot.”

These are different times than when Giles, a former standout guard at Glendora, started coaching. Kids and parents have changed. Sometimes they think they know what’s best, and coaches are having to adapt and adjust while seeking ways to unite instead of divide.

Effort and preparation is what Giles has preached and so far, it has been embraced by players and parents.

“We have an entire group from whomever you want to consider is the best player to the last guy on the bench … every single guy is committed to being their best every day,” he said. “As a coach, if we lose right now but play hard, I think every coach in the country would live with that. That’s what we have, a team full of guys who have bought into playing hard every day.

“The parents of the players we have this year are a coach’s dream. Heck, I think they yell at their kids more than I yell at their kids. They’re kind of an old-school group of parents. They want their kids to be coached. They know why we’re here and what we’re doing. I think a lot of teams get torn apart at the dinner table when parents sit around and talk how stupid the coach is. We don’t have that.”

Dawson and McCain are an exciting guard duo. Sophomores Donovan Dent and Payden White and 6-foot-5 freshman Aaron McBride are rising young players.

To fully understand the Huskies’ success and what opponents will be facing in the playoffs, you need only to evaluate what happened against Norco.

“Paris Dawson, averaging 21 points, scored two points,” Giles said. “Never once did he complain. Never once was he pouting because he wasn’t scoring. He actually yelled at some others who missed Jared because he was so hot. When your senior leader doesn’t care whether he scores two points or 30 points, just as long as we win, everybody follows along.”