ST. MONICA — Turning over an athletic program to a new coach can often be a difficult transition. Or, in some instances, it can be a relatively smooth one.
In the case of St. Monica girls’ basketball, the latter appears to be true.
John Skinner, an assistant with the team last season, has been named the new head coach of the Mariners. The move was announced last week, St. Monica Athletic Director Rick Bruce said.
“I really like the environment at St. Monica, and I realized that I had a passion for this,” Skinner said. “I’m excited to impact these kids in a positive manner both on and off the court.”
Skinner, a lifelong resident of Santa Monica, takes over for Therese Charkut, who resigned in May after more than five years of leading the team. Last season, Charkut coached St. Monica to a 15-14 overall record and a second-round appearance in the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division 5A playoffs, where the Mariners fell in a 40-39 loss to Campbell Hall.
Charkut, who was doing double duty as director of admissions for St. Monica, said she chose to step down in order to focus on her other responsibilities to the school.
“It was a tough decision because I wanted to do both,” said Charkut, who also taught a geometry class this past school year. “I was doing a pretty good job at everything, but I wasn’t doing a great job at everything.”
She leaves the Mariners in the hands of Skinner, whom she brought on last season to help coach the team. Charkut said her successor will do a fine job.
“John’s a fabulous coach. He knows basketball as well as anyone,” Charkut said. “I felt incredibly comfortable leaving the program.”
Skinner’s background in the sport stretches back to his days as a student at Crossroads School, where he played on the high school basketball team with NBA star Baron Davis. He went on to play as a walk-on for the University of Southern California under Henry Bibby, currently an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Shortly after graduating from USC with degrees in American studies and business administration in 2000, Skinner went back to Crossroads, this time for a three-year stint as an assistant with the high school boys’ basketball team. He would leave the post to concentrate on his career as a real estate agent, but, recognizing his passion for coaching, returned last year as a volunteer assistant for St. Monica.
Now that he’s been christened the new leader of the Mariners, Skinner hopes to teach lessons that will extend beyond the court.
“I just want to help these kids see the big picture of life through basketball,” he said. “Therese really cared about the kids, and she has a big heart. I hope to continue that within the program.”
There should be plenty of basketball, too. As someone who’s been around the game most of his life, Skinner intends to instill in the team the skills he’s picked up over the years — starting with protecting the basket.
“The goal is to get better every day and become one of the best defensive teams in the division,” he said.
While Skinner is hesitant to make any predictions as to how many games St. Monica will win this winter — he views such speculation as an unnecessary distraction — he acknowledges the potential he is inheriting.
“If this team comes together, they are very capable of being extremely competitive next season,” he said.
The Mariners certainly look to pack a punch, as they will feature a trio of talented seniors in Cory Laguardia, Monique Boe and Kayla Mullins. Earlier this year, Laguardia was named to the All-CIF-SS Division 5A second team while Boe earned All-Camino Real League honors.
It doesn’t hurt, either, that Skinner already has the support of the last person to guide the program.
“I’m sure I’ll be at the games cheering louder than anyone else,” Charkut said.