Pondering public vs. private dilemma

Should California separate public and private schools during the CIF basketball playoffs? That was one of the questions kicked around during the CIF state basketball finals in Sacramento over the weekend.

Two states, New York and Texas, split up private and public schools in the playoffs.

In California, there are 1,522 schools and 1,400 of them are public. Private schools won all 10 of the CIF state titles. Fifteen of the 20 teams in the CIF state finals were from private schools.

The J.W. North and Laguna Beach girls -- both public schools -- lost their championship games. The Sheldon boys from Sacramento, with a home-court crowd, played in the Division I championship game and were no match for Mater Dei, which won its record-setting ninth CIF state title.

Berkeley lost the Division I girls final for the second year in a row to Mater Dei. La Costa Canyon from Carlsbad lost to Archbishop Mitty from San Jose in the Division II boys final.

CIF Executive Director Marie Ishida told the Sacramento Bee that the playoffs have become a system of have and have nots.

The private schools have greater resources, better facilities, stable coaching staffs and supportive parents and boosters. Public schools do not always have the best equipment, coaches, support, gyms and training facilities.

Would California be better off with separate playoffs for private and public schools?

The J.W. North girls from Riverside made the biggest argument for keeping the system the way it is.

They nearly pulled off the upset over perennial state powerhouse Archbishop Mitty, losing by two points. The game ended with Mitty trying to inbound the ball after a J.W. North basket. It was the closest game in the state finals between public and private schools.

J.W. North’s Leonard De Coud, who was in his first year as coach of the girls' basketball team, enjoyed the challenge presented in the CIF State Division IV final.

“If we had went 18-10, I would have been happy,” De Coud said. “This is Cinderella. To take a team from 4-21 and now you’re 30-6, that’s an unbelievable season. Whether we won it or not, we got here. That’s the main thing. We made it here.”

Private school teams have no guarantee of success in the basketball playoffs either. The Mater Dei boys and girls are rewriting the CIF record books, but Alemany and Village Christian, two parochial high schools in the San Fernando Valley, won their first CIF state championships.

For Alemany, it was the first state title in any team sport in the 57-year history of the school.

Alemany coach Tray Meeks talked about how his team persevered in the championship game against Sacred Heart Cathedral. The entire basketball program had to persevere through decades of disappointment to win a state championship.

It takes dedication and commitment, from the community, from coaches, from players, for any school to make a deep run in the playoffs. Private schools have many advantages, but it is still not impossible for a public school to make a run at a state title.

There might come a day when all 20 teams in the CIF state finals are from private schools. Perhaps CIF doesn’t want to see that day come. It is getting closer, but the system most likely won’t change until it becomes a reality.

Until then, root for the underdog. The J.W. North girls lived a great story in the basketball playoffs. Ultimately, they exemplified a great life lesson. Winning isn’t everything. Embracing the opportunity to achieve what is considered impossible is.