Center Santa Monica HIgh School Girls Basketball Varsity Head Coach Marty Verdigo raises his fists to celebrate inside the North Gym located on the campus of Santa Monica HIgh School on Wednesday Feburary 24th 2010 in the closing seconds of the game vs The Rancho Cucamonga High School Girls Varsity Basketball team as SAMO hosted Rancho in the quarterfinals of the southern section Division 1 playoffs as his players start to celebrate with him (photo by Morgan Genser)

SAMOHI — For the second time in just over a year, Samohi’s Marty Verdugo has decided to retire.

The head girls’ basketball coach at Santa Monica High School made his decision late in the season, but kept it under wraps until the Vikings’ season ended late last month.

He went through the same thing last year, saying at that point that he was fulfilled with what he had done in building Samohi into a girls’ hoops power that won the 2010 CIF-Southern Section Division 1A championship, the first in the sport in school history.

The Vikings were just a year removed from the title and coming off a loss to the vaunted Mater Dei program — the eventual champs — in the semi-finals of the 2011 CIF-SS Division 1AA playoffs when he hung it up for the first time.

But, the coaching bug was one he is not immune to and he un-retired, coming back to lead a team that was reloading after sending three of its starters to NCAA Division 1 schools.

“Last year, I was so excited [to retire],” Verdugo said. “But then, I re-evaluated.”

He said that decision never felt “more right,” as he went about the task of hopefully leading the Vikings back to the playoffs.

The decision may have resulted in a first round exit from the playoffs, but Verdugo said this year was different. He felt like this new crop of players was willing to let him teach, rather than just manage a string of college prospects.

“They grew more than any time in my six years,” he said of this year’s squad. “They exemplified how a basketball team is supposed to grow.”

Verdugo’s retirement includes leaving the classroom, where he has been a teacher at Samohi since 2003.

“It was fun,” Verdugo said of the run. “But, I’m feeling like there is closure.”

Verdugo’s departure will make keeping Samohi a power in the sport that much more difficult, but Athletic Director Daniel Escalera is confident it can be done.

The search for Verdugo’s replacement began this week, with Escalera expecting the process to end in early April with the announcement of a new coach.

“Being a program that is high-powered makes a difference in the landscape of girls’ basketball at our level,” Escalera said of candidates.

Escalera praised Verdugo’s efforts to date, saying he’s “grateful” that he helped place the school’s athletic program on the map.

“They have played some pretty good games here,” he said. “We want to keep that up.”

The search will be open to all comers, but Escalera said that finding somebody on campus is always a plus. Also, faculty positions are hard to come by in a public school environment suffering through tough economic times.

Escalera isn’t sure if a staff position will come available to help lure a coach to campus. He’s currently working that over with the administration.

Both Verdugo and Escalera brought up the name of Marisa Silvestri as a possible candidate. She was an assistant under Verdugo during the title run and part of the faculty. She left the position following the 2010-11 season, but still teaches at the school.

She could not be reached for comment.

“I know she’s going to throw her hat in the ring,” Escalera said. “That’s good for us, very important. Having somebody already on board makes a difference.”

daniela@www.smdp.com

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