basketball Edit

A Future Coaching Legend like Joe Vaughan? Jared Honig is a Real One 2.0

What constitutes a legendary coach? Is it victories or how many great players you have coached?

I once had an AAU director introduce himself by telling me how many McDonald’s All-Americans have played for his program.

So what is a legend? Do you have to rack up tons of wins? Is it the longevity of being there for players? There’s no guide book that says if you develop x amount of players for JC, NAIA, D1, D2 that you’ve made it.

I feel strongly about writing this story because when you see a young coach like Jared Honig at Granada Hills High who is on that path of being fantastically helpful to their players, you want to share what they’re doing with others, share their best practices.

If you ask high school youngsters today who is Joe Vaughan, they might not be able to tell you. He’s been retired a decade but if you bore witness to his greatness like I did you’ll never forget him.

Joe was and may still be the gold standard for a varsity girls coach in the history of California. For 3 decades he notched a record of 761-112.

Joe Vaughan
Joe Vaughan

Only Mater Dei’s Kevin Kiernan has notched more victories so you can easily make a case that Kevin is the gold standard. I feel lucky to have talked personally with Kevin, he’s a great guy.

He’s so caring about his players that he treats them, well, like they’re his own kids. This can also be seen in the tremendous coaching of Sierra Canyon’s Alicia Komaki who played for Kevin at Troy High.

One thing a legend should be is gracious. K-Kiernan passed J-Vaughan for the record a month ago on December 26th against Serra of Gardena and did it with class.

Joe Vaughan to me? I was that 7 year-old little Erik Woods in Ventura circa 1978 and J-Vaughan was the son of one my neighbors. They bragged about how their boy was helping Buena players to be good ballers and more importantly, better people.

Joe strives to be a super role model to players, more than just a coach.

Why am I now comparing a legend like Joe Vaughan to this Granada Hills girls varsity coach Jared Honig? He’s only racked up a 130-47 record in his 6 years coaching varsity, whereas Joe won two state championships, six CIF-Southern Section titles and 27 Channel League crowns. More on Jared later.

Me, E-Woods, I feel lucky having met really great coaches, getting to pick the brains and even do stories of their players or themselves such as Steve Smith of Oak Hill Academy:

Mater Dei’s boys varsity coach Gary McKnight and Kiernan have shared lately through their methodology the secret sauce to each being a legend, having consistently been methodical in showing deep involvement in their kids striving for achievement.

The secret sauce? Care and high expectations in equal measure.

I’m not here to say who should or should not be a legend in relation to a great guy like Jared Honig, but to relate why he’s in the same vein of these coaches I’m taking about.

I have supreme respect for a lot of other coaches I appreciate so very much. Like Ann Larson, Ventura’s old school, tough-like-a-college coach, the aforementioned Alicia Komaki, Sierra Canyon’s blazing sharp powerhouse, coach Vanessa Nygaard of Windward, a classy winner with her caring influence for players, and Coach Melissa Hearlihy of Harvard Westlake and her professionalism that is so inspiring.

All these coaches I mentioned have this mantra, if you build it they will come. They build skills and character, but why does that phrase sound familiar?

Kevin Costner used that exact phrase in the movie Field of Dreams. Yes and that dope actor and director might not have been the best prep ball player at Buena High, but guess who was his caring coach?

Yup, none other than Joe Vaughan. They shared, and still share, a close relationship. Why? Joe had encouraged Kevin to dream beyond b-ball, to hone his passions for life.

Jared Honig, that dude cares too.

The Granada Hills 2018 team
The Granada Hills 2018 team

I’ve talked to so many of his current and former players. Let me share a story that shows why I predict he’ll be a legend for years to come. Esther Mensah, that 5-7 soph at GHHS a few years ago had a complete transformation when Jared took over as the varsity coach in her junior year.

Esther recalls, “I owe Jared so much. I didn’t realize I had something special inside me, that it wasn’t my destiny to be just a 6th man. He improved my skill and confidence to where I was scoring 25 points a game a lot as a senior and getting scholarship offers from many D1 programs. I’ll never be able to repay that, just pay forward his belief in me.”

Jared wakes up happy every day. He and his wife have a young child they love but you can tell that Jared wakes up also thinking on how he will he be a great math teacher at Granada Hills High.

He gets giddy about designing new b-ball offenses, having film sessions with his players on identifying together on what is great shot selection.

The result? He hasn’t had to tell anyone to stop shooting this year because his girls have this crazy sharp IQ, and their success has been predicated on making very few errors.

The best aspect of Jared’s coaching, that I wish all young coaches would consider replicating, is how Jared has this study hall twice a week for his team pre and post season, giving them time and space to tutor each other as needed.

But he also sits down 1 on 1 with all of them in the quad area of school for biweekly academic advisement in a relaxed setting. He asks them how are they doing in class, in life, offers to help them in academic goals or whatever he can.

I’ll let Jared explain, “I’m still in love with basketball every day. Letting out my competitive side, I tell my players when the scoreboard is on, its ‘Play hard time.’ Success to me is not winning or losing a game.

“I ask our players, ‘Did you have fun, act dignified, execute our preset team goals?’ I tell them you won no matter what the score was if you played the right way. You should keep your head held high and deserve to feel like a champ if you left it all on the floor.”

#epitome of a great coach

Me watching last year’s Granada Hills team, they had fire. I got to know Haylee Aiden. She has a long athletic 6-3 frame, is a brainiac no less, and reps how all the kids on Jared’s teams have this preppy vibe.

Jared graduated from Granada Hills in 2003 and went on to play for Menlo College where he graduated 2nd in his class with a 3.92 gpa. He sets the tone for the girls to be academically minded.

Result? All 50 kids playing in the freshmen, soph, JV, and varsity girls programs combined to have a 3.4 cumulative gpa. They’ve had that same constant academic success every year for the last 6 years.

Its a culture that Jared is supremely proud of, as he says,“It’s not ‘if’ our girls will go to college but which college will they go to.”


If you go to see his team play, like I did vs Ribet Academy last year or Sierra Canyon this year, you’ll see how these kids gut it out, like for instance current senior shooting guard Hayley Berfield.

Berfield is a fire talented future D1 player averaging over 20 ppg and was recently featured on and as the Athlete of the Week in The LA Daily News. It’s easy to celebrate her and to celebrate this whole team.

H-Berfield and the whole crew are on that mission to grind and compete for a LA City Section, Division 1, and state title. How dope is that?

The cool thing is, J-Honig has this crazy team-building style to jazz everybody up. His girls brainstorm a secret team word, which acts like cool secret handshake. This year’s word is DUB.

Each letter stands for a concept picked by the girls to mean...well I can’t tell you. It’s a secret for a reason, it builds that sense you belong to a special club.

The neatest thing about Jared’s program is that they all buy into this Excel spreadsheet that assigns values that work like PER, the analytics that the NBA uses to evaluate efficiency. The spreadsheet keeps track of who gets the team Medal of Honor at the end of the year.

They assign points for deflections, rebounds, assists, steals, and hustle plays like taking charges, but not for scoring points. That’s keeping it real for each other, that’s GHHS!

How much do Jared’s former players appreciate him? You’ll find like 10 former players at each game this season to cheer his current players on. Like Marlene Salazar, who now balls for Glendale College and is known for doing the “dirty work” for her team.

Marlene explains, “Jared makes us realize there are no shortcuts in the game, or in life. He showed us so many inspirational videos and inspirational speakers. We used to see the world as a person being 5 or 6 feet tall and looking-down perspective. After his influence, we see life from an in-the-clouds looking-down view now.”

Back to Jared’s big heart. He’ll lovingly tell you how his dad Howie, who operated a print shop in Northridge, loved baseball but loved his boy Jared enough to learn and coach basketball with him. Jared dedicates his career to Howie.

Jared had this awesome player Cristian Patron, who is now playing hoop for College of the Canyons. She relates how Jared was there for her 5 years ago. It made him legendary in her life, “I loved playing for Jared, for our team. But sadly, I lost my father Homero my freshman year, about the same age that coach Jared was when he lost his father Howie.

“He was the only one who knew what I was going through and he was there for me like a dad. Through the tears, I leaned on him and had basketball as a release from the hard times, he made life less lonely. Coach Jared helped me see that playing hard for our fathers was really the best way to honor them.”

Howie and Jared
Howie and Jared

Imagine, Jared already has a successful team with a set of kids I like to call the Cal-Tech kids. But he’s winning at a really high level with those brain heavy youngsters.

Imagine, if Jared had a Kennedy Burke level talent, who killed it for Sierra Canyon, now tearing it up for UCLA. Or a Jordan Canada level baller, who played for Windward.

Imagine, if Jared wasn’t coaching at a public school and was at a prestigious prep school costing $30,000 a year and he could offer a scholly to entice recruitment?

Would he win more chips, more games? Did Vince Carter win an NBA Dunk contest, it’d be a slit-throat gesture fosho.

Jared believes as I do that his system would benefit from elite talent prep players. Just as Joe Vaughan had a legion of high caliber future college players over the years, like Kelly Greathouse, an All-American at Buena in 1999, who I balled with every day back then.

What do I respect most about Jared?

He takes whoever comes his way and just makes them better people, better players, more community minded, just like his dad Howie taught him.

What should the reader should know about Jared?

His teams are beyond meticulous and some Granada Hills girls have gone on to play for Utah State and more recently Emily Mitchell is doing great at UC Santa Cruz. She was last year’s strong guard who was proud to be honored by The Daily News. She says of Jared, “I miss those times we’d break down film. Jared builds you up however he can.”

Emily Mitchell and Jared Honig
Emily Mitchell and Jared Honig

What do I love about legendary coaches?

Every time I give them a compliment, try to tell them they’re epic or great, they all give me this Get the F out of here Erik look. Great coaches like to be humble, it’s like they’re thinking, “I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do so don’t try to praise me. The kids deserve any praise to be given.”

A legendary coach never seems to want to take any credit. The best example I can find of that? They named the Buena gym after Joe Vaughan in 2007 and he didn’t gloat or think of himself a legend. He just appreciated that others appreciated him.

Listen to his hilarious comments at the gym-naming ceremony, “It is pretty special and an unbelievable honor," Vaughan said.

"People used to say maybe they will name the gym after you someday and I always told people if they would just name a urinal after me that would be fine. That way people could smile when they took a leak, or if they didn't like me, take a leak harder."

#Classic Joe

Jared, he’s special and could be on the road to 2-3 more decades of coaching. He tells me he wants to keep coaching as long as he can. At his current pace, in about 30 years he’ll be up to 700 wins, but that’s not even on his mind.

Jared told me he fell in love with basketball at age 5, an age when he busted his middle finger up real good but instead of crying he was like, “So what, I hurt my finger for this cool game, no problem.”

Jared jokingly told me if he hurts his middle finger at age 80 playing or coaching ball, then so be it. One more mark of honor to the game he loves with his entire essence.

Will Jared be a future legend?

He’s too busy to give it a thought, and is too busy reminding his players, “If you build it, they will come.” Jared is building his own legacy so go out and watch his “Cal-Tech girls” and the precision they display, with a grit like few other teams employ.

Then maybe you can ponder for yourself, as I have, what constitutes a past, present, or future legend of the game.