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Head coach for St. Monica's football team Larry Muno at St. Monica's High School gym on Friday morning. (photo by Brandon Wise)

ST. MONICA — There are a lot of expected changes in store for a high school football team that only captured one win last season, whether it’s new players in the system or relearning the fundamentals of the game.

But perhaps nothing will be bigger to the St. Monica Catholic High School Mariners than the hiring of new Head Coach Larry Muno, a former linebacker with Rutgers University who has dreams of restoring the rich tradition of a once competitive program.

School administrators in late January announced the 43-year-old Hermosa Beach resident as the choice to take over for Sean Ritter, who was let go following a 21-19 victory against Bishop Mora Salesian High School in the final game last season, the school’s lone win over the past three years.

The high school also hired Christian Gascou as the new strength and conditioning coach.

Muno plans to instill a philosophy of being relentlessly positive, taking one from the book of UCLA Head Coach Rick Neuheisel, whom Muno knows well through his father, Larry Muno Sr., a famous sports agent who represented Joe Montana, Dwight Clark and the former Bruins quarterback during his professional playing days.

“I want to let the kids know that this is a school that is not only a great academic institution but wants to be a great athletic institution as well and return to the days of CIF championships under Norm Lacy and Tebb Kusserow,” Muno said, referring to the two local legendary coaches. “We’re going to have an offense that is fun and make sure that the kids learn the game from the most minute details and be strong.”

After graduating from Rutgers with a degree in sports management and kinesiology, Muno spent a few years working as an assistant golf professional in Palm Desert, moving to Manhattan Beach thereafter where he coached football to seventh and eighth graders at American Martyrs Catholic Church.

Four years ago, he was appointed the director for the Catholic Youth Organization, which governs athletics for all grammar schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, instituting a training program for coaches, teaching how to run an enriching and positive program.

Muno, who is also a firefighter for the Vernon Fire Department, was singled out as a strong candidate for the head coaching position because of his approach to the game, going beyond the goal of winning to ensuring his players understand the fundamentals of football, said Principal Thom Gasper.

“Larry strikes me as someone who can break down the game to the players,” Gasper said.

A former assistant football coach at Loyola High School and assistant coach for the “Trojans in Training” camp at USC, Gascou will serve as the defensive coordinator and run the strength and conditioning program.

He played at both Loyola High School and Boston College and practices law at Gascou Hopkins LLP.

Gasper said the strength and conditioning program will run year round whereas it was previously a focus during the summer and fall.

“They will do more lifting and conditioning and more work as a team throughout the year so the student athletes are better prepared when they hit the field in August,” he said.

Just several weeks into the job, Muno has already begun recruiting players into the program, holding tryouts and practices every weekday morning. About a dozen players on the team next year will be new to the game.

While Muno can’t predict the numbers in the win-loss column next year, he promises that the team will bring it, playing with lots of passion.

“We’re going to compete in every game and reach our potential and if we do those things and take it one game at a time, we’ll be successful,” he said.

melodyh@smdp.com