WATSONVILLE — Bruce Dini’s whirlwind week culminated on Friday morning.
Three days after hiring Dini, Monte Vista Christian introduced its new head football coach in an hour-long meet and greet with dozens of parents and student-athletes at the school’s campus.
Dini shook hands with all in attendance and stuck around to talk football with several of the Mustangs players long after MVC Headmaster Mitch Salerno introduced the new head coach.
Now, Dini said, the fun begins.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity,” Dini said. “I feel like there’s momentum in the football program, which is fantastic, and there’s a momentum in the school. It’s palpable.”
Dini stepped down from the head coaching position at Stevenson in Pebble Beach on Tuesday and was hired by the Mustangs a half hour later.
He replaces defensive mastermind David Reese, who jump-started the program and led the Mustangs to their most successful stretch in recent memory. In Reese’s nine seasons as both head football coach and Athletic Director, MVC made the Central Coast Section playoffs five times and moved up from the Monterey Bay League’s Pacific division to the tougher Gabilan. They also won a league championship in 2011 and played for a CCS title in 2014.
“There’s a tradition and there’s momentum,” Dini said. “Coach Reese took Monte Vista Christian to a higher level, competing in the Gabilan division. There’s no easy game on the schedule. The great thing about that is the character and the commitment of the kids and the talent here has sort of revealed itself. I think there is great potential. It’ll be fun to see how good this can be.”
Dini is one of several new faces at Monte Vista Christian.
Salerno is also entering his first school year, stepping in for now-retired Steve Sharp, and the Mustangs also hired Matt Coleman last month as their new A.D.
“I think it’s a seasonal change — we are shifting,” Salerno said. “We say goodbye to our headmaster and we miss him but I think we’re ready for the next thing. I think the same thing is happening with our athletic department.”
Dini served five seasons as Stevenson’s head football coach and guided the Pirates to their first postseason appearance in 17 years. He posted a 27-20 overall record.
Salerno said Dini beat out two other “serious” candidates for the position. The Headmaster explained that the decision to hire Dini was about more than just football. His character, maturity and ability to develop kids into young men — Dini will also teach economics at MVC — tilted the scales in his favor.
“We chose Bruce for a reason,” Salerno said. “Coach Reese has brought us to a great place and we really think that [Dini] is ready to take this program to the next step. It’s not that the other guys couldn’t develop young men but we really felt like [Dini] had something really unique.”
After graduating from Stevenson in 1977, Dini went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in communication at the University of Pacific while also earning a minor in economics. Dini said he believed he’d be working as a journalist before he fell into banking and finance. He worked in investment management for more than 25 years, earning his master’s degree in management from Golden Gate University in the early ‘90s, but fell in love with coaching when he started roaming the sidelines as the head lacrosse coach at Carmel High in 2002.
He coached the Padres for seven years before returning to his alma mater in 2009 as a teacher. He eventually took over the head coaching duties for the football program in 2012.
Last season, Dini led Stevenson to a 6-4 overall record and its historic CCS postseason berth. Dini’s spread offense shattered several of the school’s passing records as well as the record for points in a season with 353.
But, he said, the challenge will be greater with MVC playing against section powerhouses Palma High, San Benito High and Salinas High in the MBL-G.
“I’m excited about this opportunity personally,” Dini said. “It’s an opportunity to grow.”
Dini said he would not completely overhaul the offensive or defensive approach. MVC will continue to attack defenses with the spread and will keep most of Reese’s 3-4 defense intact. Some of the terminology will be different but the basic concepts will be the same.
“There’s not a lot of mystery with the spread,” Dini said. “A lot of the things they did last year, we were doing at Stevenson.”
The Mustangs went 8-3 last season but graduated 14 players, including their starting quarterback, top two receivers and star two-way player Jackson Collins. The Mustangs were also dealt a blow when freshman running back D.J. Deas, who ran for more than 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns, moved from the area.
Still, Dini said he feels good about the crop of returning players and their commitment to the program.
“I don’t want to make any predictions but I know that we’ll do everything that we can to maximize the talent of the student-athletes,” Dini said. “I came here because of them. I came here because of the school. I came here because of Mitch’s vision of the program.”