courtesy of Shutterstock
"When Fandino was hired in April as the girls varsity BASKETBALL coach, he didn't need to look far to find assistant coaches."
West Ranch High has always had a special place in Carlos Fandino's heart.
Whether it was coaching the boys junior varsity basketball team from 2006-10 or watching his son CJ play varsity basketball before graduating in 2011, Fandino has remained a fixture around the Stevenson Ranch campus since the school opened in 2004.
This season has been even more meaningful for Fandino thanks to the presence of 21-year-old twin daughters Christa and Kaylie.
When Fandino was hired in April as the girls varsity basketball coach, he didn't need to look far to find assistant coaches. His daughters returned to West Ranch after playing for the Wildcats as freshmen in 2010-11, before transferring to Chaminade.
"It's been extremely meaningful. It's made the whole experience worthwhile," Fandino said. "To be able to spend time with my daughters and to spend time with this team, it's been so fulfilling."
Although Christa is attending Flair Beauty College in Valencia and Kaylie is finishing her undergraduate academic requirements at Pierce College, they both played basketball during the 2015-16 season at NAIA San Diego Christian College.
"It was great because I didn't end on really good terms, but just having her there supporting me and her continuing on to keep pushing me, that made it worth it," Christa said. "Just to say I played one year of college basketball with my sister, that's amazing."
Injuries cut both their playing careers short after winning two CIF Southern Section titles and a Division 2 state championship in 2014 at Chaminade, but the twins have been able to satisfy their competitive spirit by participating in practices and sitting on the bench during games.
They have also been able to reconnect with 2014 Canyon High graduate Kali Vittallo, who the twins have known since fourth grade; they played for Carlos on his Synergy travel ball team. Vittallo played basketball for two seasons at NCAA Division III Austin College in Texas before being hired to coach at West Ranch.
"Having Kali and the twins together, the girls get to see what's at the end of the tunnel," Carlos said. "Our girls all know they played in college, so they have their full respect."
Carlos has relied on Christa for her defensive mind and Kaylie for her offensive prowess. Kaylie has connected with specific players with her analytical thinking and Christa has related to others because of her creative talents.
But perhaps the biggest asset the twins brought to a rebuilding program has more to do with establishing a positive culture than teaching fundamentals.
"At Chaminade, we learned what it means to be a family and to stick together," Kaylie said. "When we first got here, everyone was separate and I told them to give each other a chance and get to know one another and spend some time together. Now they know they can accomplish more together than they can by themselves."
With only three returning varsity players, Christa was instrumental in West Ranch developing chemistry with several conditioning and team-bonding exercises.
"From where we were when we started, my dad has turned this program around," Christa said. "They have gotten a lot closer because of our journey at Chaminade. Having each other's backs, no matter what, is the most important thing and they all took it to heart."
The time spent at the gymnasium has been invaluable for the Fandino family, especially with Carlos' demanding job as city administrator for the City of Vernon.
"I don't really get to see him that much because he works a lot and he's a really busy man since he's always in meetings and dealing with city council, so when it comes to basketball, it's great," Kaylie said. "I love spending time with my dad."
The presence of his daughters has also provided Carlos with a different approach to coaching.
"I have to remind them that he was in the Marines, so he has that military background," Kaylie said. "He's had to change his whole coaching style, to be honest. The yelling, he can't do that anymore because they'll just shut down on him and won't respond. He's much calmer now. This group has a lot of potential. This year was all about rebuilding and we have new coaches and new players and we're a really young team. But next year, we're going to get better."
With a strong foundation created by the Fandino family, West Ranch girls basketball looks to have an impact in the future in Santa Clarita, both on and off the court.
"The ultimate goal is to have them prepared to contribute to society and to remind them to not be afraid to fail," Carlos said. "This isn't just about basketball, it's about teaching them life lessons and I couldn't be more thankful to have the support of our whole family."