Junior varsity coach Jay Baksa, left, and freshman head coach
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For the dozens of athletes who hit the hardwood dawning Gilroy High blue and white over the past decade-plus, coaches Jay Baksa and Eddie Pollock were the cornerstones of their high school careers.
For the dozens of athletes who hit the hardwood donning Gilroy High blue and white over the past decade-plus, coaches Jay Baksa and Eddie Pollock were the cornerstones of their high school careers.

Prior to the varsity Mustangs’ season finale last Friday, it was announced that Baksa, who served as Gilroy’s junior varsity hoops coach for 13 seasons, the last eight as head coach, and Pollock, the freshman head honcho for 10 years, had led their final games earlier that evening.

The reaction of the varsity players as they heard the news delivered through the gym’s crackling speaker system said it all.

Arms rose in shock, shoulders shrugged and words like ‘no’ and ‘are your serious?’ were mouthed. Then, each of the players walked over to the two men, as they received a generous standing ovation, and planted meaningful hugs – an impromptu salute to two individuals who aided in their development as hoopsters.

“It was a pleasant surprise,” Baksa said. “This particular group of seniors I have an infinity for them because a lot of them I had for two seasons on the JVs and got to know them and see them grow as young men.”

Pollock, who each year welcomed the often timid incoming freshmen interested in playing basketball, said it was an unexpected moment.

“That was so cool, that was really neat,” Pollock said. “We are hard on them during the season because we want them to be better but we also worry about them as individuals and hope they do well as they mature.”

The coaching mentality will never fully go away. Pollock had only been “retired” five days and he already reverted back to dishing out advice during the Mustangs’ first-round playoff win against Milpitas on Tuesday night. Pollock grabbed Cameron Harrell as he returned to the bench moments before the second half began, put his arm around the senior guard and told him to watch his fouls because he already had two.

“That was really the first time I was just a fan,” Pollock said. “But we already were talking about what this guy should do or that guy.”

Baksa and Pollock share similar sentiments when it comes to the instructional and mentoring aspects of the positions they have passionately held.

“I always enjoyed the teaching element of coaching more than the game Xs and Os,” said Baksa, whose Xs and Os must’ve had something special to them as well.

In eight seasons at the helm, Baksa compiled 173 wins and just 40 losses. His teams won three TCAL championships and 17 tournament crowns, including six Bob Hagen Memorial titles.

“That, in general, is how I looked at high school coaching. You try to teach them life lessons as much as you are teaching them basketball,” Baksa said. “You try to teach them how to be men and how to survive in a tough world.”

The transition through the three levels, from freshman ball to junior varsity and up to varsity, is a cohesive production. One usually won’t succeed without the other.

“As a freshman, they don’t really know if there’s another year in them, and of course, you try to always inspire them to really love the game,” Pollock said. “They come in and don’t have a lot of skills. That’s one part that I always really enjoyed, showing them the basics.”

And when they get to the next tier, Baksa continues the trend of continuing to establish the fundamentals of the game. And so on.

“Fourteen, 15, 16-year old young men are still at an age where a lot of things are still possible for them in this sport,” Baksa said.

“And I always enjoyed trying to get them to learn the game, trying to teach them the skills and try to get rid of bad skills that I know aren’t going to translate up at the varsity level. So at the end of the day, when they left me, they were as ready as they could be as a junior or senior heading up to varsity.”

Baksa first served as an assistant for the junior varsity squad under Shaun Wilhelm. The tandem spent five seasons together before Baksa took over the lead role.

His one stipulation – he must have a quality assistant.

“That’s where Craig Martin came into play,” Baksa said.

The two had coaching ties dating back 15 or so years at the time and instantly clicked as a pair.

“We just had a ball with it,” Baksa said.

Pollock first coached his daughters at St. Mary’s before assisting with the freshman girls team at GHS for one season. The next season, he began his 10-year run as the boys freshman head coach.

“Right now is the right time to sit back, become a fan and enjoy it that way,” Pollock said.

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