WATSONVILLE—St. Francis High School girls’ basketball coach Randy Braga—who led the Sharks to three-straight Central Coast Section Division V championships—will not make a return to the sidelines this year.
Athletic Director Adam Hazel issued a press release March 24 stating that Braga stepped down from his position. The announcement comes just weeks before the start of the basketball season.
Braga led the Sharks to CCS titles in 2013, 2014 and 2015. That was followed up with a trip to the semifinals in 2016.
He left to coach at Ceiba College Prep in 2016-17. He also coached Watsonville High School’s girls team in 2017-18 before returning to Ceiba to coach his daughter Fenesia’s senior season.
Braga returned to St. Francis to coach for a second stint in 2019 and again led them to the semifinals. However, a bigger role at his current employer prevented him from committing full time to the program this season.
“It was doable for a long time and the last couple of years has been harder and harder,” he said. “This year…I just didn’t see how it was going to be possible without breaking myself.”
Hazel will fill the role of interim coach for the upcoming 2020-21 pandemic-shortened season.
“I’m really happy to step back into the role and I’m really excited to get going,” he said.
Hazel said that Braga was passionate about the game and the players, which is always a big key for a coach.
“He was excellent at that,” Hazel said.
Braga said that he had given Hazel a heads up of his uncertainty to return. He is not entirely closing the door on coaching. This will be the first season in which he is not coaching in more than 20 years—he has also served as head coach at Watsonville High School and Ceiba College Prep Academy in Watsonville.
“If that door opens back up again, I’ll jump through it,” he said.
In his previous stint as the team’s interim coach during the 2018-19 season, Hazel led the Sharks to a Pacific Coast Athletic League (PCAL) Cypress Division title along with a trip to the CCS semifinals.
He enjoyed coaching so much that Hazel convinced Principal Patrick Lee he was the right person for the position.
“Thankfully he said yes and now we’re off and running,” Hazel said.
According to Hazel, it’s looking more than likely as the weeks go on that they’ll be able to play some basketball this season. He’s going to meet with other coaches in Santa Cruz County to discuss testing procedures and the updated youth sports guidelines.
“We’re optimistic that we’re going to have a season,” he said. “We know more than likely there’s going to be testing with it and we’re all getting ready on that end.”
Normally a member of the PCAL, St. Francis was invited to play in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League this year—a move that gives teams their best shot at meeting the Covid-19 restrictions required to play. Hazel believes they’ll start games as early as mid-April.