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Golden Valley Boys Basketball Climbs to the Top
April, 2010 - Issue #66
Start with Chris Printz, who had never been a head coach before taking helm of the Golden Valley boys basketball team in 2004.

Sprinkle in the fact that Golden Valley was a new school and starting its sports programs from scratch, and then add in a dash of transfer players from all over the Santa Clarita Valley.

Remarkably, for Printz and the Grizzlies, it's been a recipe for success.
While the program got off to a bumpy start, they've pulled in two Foothill League titles (this season as co-champions with Valencia) in their five years as a varsity program. The last two seasons, they have reached at least the CIF-Southern Section Division IIIA quarterfinals.

Not bad for a team that went winless in the Foothill League just three seasons ago.

"We were 0-10 in league that season but 12-15 overall," said Printz about the 2007-08 season. "We won the Crescenta Valley tournament and we beat the defending Division I CIF champions. If you look at it, the season as a whole was a season of progress. It was frustrating what happened in the league."

So, what was Golden Valley's goal for the 2008-09 season in response? Win the Foothill League.

"You can't set unrealistic goals but to win a league title was not an unrealistic goal for us," Printz said. "We felt prepared for the challenge of our league, but we did have to get over a psychological hump in our progress. We had to believe we could beat the Canyons, the Harts, and the Valencias of the world."

The Grizzlies wasted no time getting over that psychological hump, opening the 2008-09 Foothill League season with a win.

Then they won again. And again.
Golden Valley reeled off five straight wins to open league before a loss. The team went on to lose just one game in league, finishing 9-1 and completing a worst-to-first turnaround. It was the first league title in school history.
Then, it wasn't just the players who believed.

"It's provided tremendous energy," said Golden Valley principal Sal Frias, a former high school basketball coach himself. "It's been great for our community, our parents, and our staff. It's a wonderful thing, a wonderful feeling."

After losing in the semifinals to Gahr, Printz said he experienced one of the most touching moments he's ever had in coaching.

"As we walked off the court, hundreds of our students and community members came down to the sideline and made a tunnel for us, applauding us and thanking us for what [the players had] done," Printz said. "To see what these guys have done and what they've meant for the school, it's been amazing."

The team was feeling good about itself. The student body was feeling good about the team. But Printz, who is also the co-athletic director at Golden Valley, had other concerns weighing on him.

In March, almost exactly a month after his team lost in the semifinals, Printz resigned.

"I had a moment last year where I worried I wouldn't be able to do what is ultimately the most important to me, which is to be a father and husband," said Printz, who is a father of three and has a fourth child on the way. "At the time it felt like the right decision."
His family didn't agree.

"My kids said, 'Dad, why aren't you coaching anymore?' They missed going to games, they missed being a part of it," he said. "It was obviously the right thing to do to return, and I'm so glad I did," he said.

So in May, with the approval of his family, Printz officially returned.
But it wasn't going to be easy. As defending league champions, teams want to knock you off your perch. But Printz had to prepare for that with just two returning players from the league title team.

"They had to bind together in order to accomplish their goals. The camaraderie on this team, the chemistry on this team has really carried them to some unbelievable heights," Printz said of this year's team. "Nobody really believed in them except for themselves. That's obviously something that's motivated them and worked out for them."

It motivated them to a repeat title run, this time as co-league champions with Valencia. Golden Valley made a run to the quarterfinals this year, before falling to one of the top teams in the state, Gardena Serra.

It was another successful season for Golden Valley. Next season, they have an abundance of returners compared to last season. The Grizzlies will have four.

Printz isn't worried though.

"That's why you build a program where it's not just about your varsity team. It's about your freshman team, your JV team too," said Printz.

"It will be a challenge, but it's obviously one we've been through before this year."
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