For the first season in nearly a decade, there will be a new coach on the bench for the Tomales Lady Braves basketball team.
Chris Kenyon, who coached the Braves since the beginning of the 2006 season, reluctantly submitted a letter of resignation to the school following the past basketball season. Kenyon cited several reasons for his decision, including a wish to follow the athletic career of his daughter at Casa Grande High School. The younger Kenyon is a freshman at Casa and presently plays on the junior varsity softball team.
It was a successful run for Kenyon at Tomales who posted an overall winning record of 117-69 over an eight year span. He replaced Jeff Kositzin following the 2005 season.
Kenyon's teams were remarkably competitive in small school league competition including private schools Rincon Valley Christian, St. Vincent, Roseland Prep and Sonoma Academy. The Lady Braves held a surprising 4-3 advantage over three time Section champ Rincon Valley during the last three seasons.
The crowning achievement at Tomales during the Kenyon era however was the North Central Division VI championship captured by the Lady Braves in 2011 when they defeated Ferndale 55-36. It was the first of two successive appearances in the Division VI for the same two teams. That championship banner also remains the only basketball crown ever captured by a Lady Brave team (19-8) in the history of the school.
"I don't see the level of dedication to basketball in the girls coming up the next couple of years," Kenyon paused before admitting, "Practice at Tomales is always an adventure because of the great distances that kids have to travel to put in those extra hours. Many times we didn't have all our girls for practice because of other activities, after school work and extra sacrifices which have to be made by parents. Tomales did not field a softball team this season. That is not a good sign."
During the strong run made by the Lady Braves the team also participated in the summer developmental league sponsored by the girls program at Santa Rosa Junior College. The project created a demanding travel schedule and "lots of carpooling," noted former assistant Steve Bell.
"Steve was with me for six seasons," explained Kenyon, "he is from Tomales and wanted to stay because of the competitiveness of our girls at the time."
Kenyon also had to personally sacrifice to coach at Tomales. Often times he had to leave a couple of hours early for work in San Francisco and the East Bay in order to make it to the little Marin County public school in time for practices and games. "My boss didn't really care as long as the work was done," he said.
The Tomales adventure was not the first coaching job for Kenyon however. The Petaluma resident might be better identified as the long time manager of the Novato Knicks semi-pro baseball club. The Knickerbockers continued to play a high level of baseball after the turn of the century when other local clubs had to disband because of escalating costs and travel. The self funded team made up of age 18-35 ex-college and pro players has been playing a 50-60 game schedule in the northern California region since 1956.
Instead of making regular trips in the late summer to the Stan Musial World Series in Houston, Kenyon can be found this season keeping score for the Casa Grande Junior Varsity softball team. This time around he has a special rooting interest.