WATSONVILLE — Watsonville High Athletic Director Marcus Northcutt will serve as the interim head coach of the boy’s basketball team, the school’s principal Elaine Legorreta told the Pajaronian on Tuesday.

The Wildcatz had planned to hire a longterm solution after former head coach James Gomez stepped down from his lead position for both basketball and baseball late last month. But with the winter sports season just a month away Legorreta decided to ask Northcutt to step in for the upcoming year.

Legorreta said Northcutt was the obvious choice for the interim position. The kids at Watsonville had already grown close to Northcutt after just one school year and he ran the program’s summer league this year, as Gomez took the summer off to spend time with family and decide whether to return or retire.

“It’s just late timing,” Legorreta said. “I feel very lucky to have Marcus. Even when the position had just opened up the kids were asking if we were going to hire him. It’s a popular choice on campus but I would’ve loved to get someone longterm.”

In Northcutt, the Wildcatz get a tested and well-respected basketball coach that has been around the county for years. Before being hired as Watsonville’s A.D. last year, Northcutt, a Santa Cruz High alumnus, spent more than a decade as a head coach at San Lorenzo Valley High. He first led the girl’s program and later moved on to coach the boy’s program, guiding it to a pair of Central Coast Section playoff appearances during his final two seasons in Felton.

Northcutt said serving as the interim head coach is not ideal with his gigantic responsibilities as the A.D. at the public school of close to 2,000 students but he’s already managed to secure the help of former head coach Mike Blum, Shane Aldrete and Delano Berry and convinced last year’s lower level coaches, James Garza and Robby Olson, to stick around, too.  

“I have a big coaching staff and that’s going to help,” Northcutt said.

Legorreta said the school would open the coaching search back up at the conclusion of the upcoming season.

Northcutt said he would only throw his hat in the ring if all goes well this season.

“We’ll see how this year goes and if I can manage it,” Northcutt said. “I would only do it if I could give 100 percent to both positions…But the other side of this is, I’m not approaching it thinking of it as a one year deal. I want to start building up the program for the next 20 years whether I’m going to be the coach next year or just the A.D.”

Northcutt takes over a program which last year finished 12-13 overall and qualified for the CCS playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season. Before last season, however, wins were tough to come by for the Wildcatz, who have not won a league championship since the 2010-11 season.

Watsonville will have to replace all-but five players from last year’s 16-player roster but do return their best wing in senior Gio Gonzalez, who earned Monterey Bay League Pacific division honorable mention last season.

Northcutt said he wants to make the program into a yearly league title contender whether he stays on as the head coach or not.

“My objective is to build the program,” Northcutt said. “When you think about Watsonville, you think about soccer, our running teams are pretty good, too, but I want to build the basketball program to the same level. That’s where we want all of our programs.”

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