Rhett Soliday travels about an eighth of a mile to his office every day. But having now settled into his seat as the Vanguard University men's basketball coach, the former UC Irvine and Concordia University assistant has learned the Lions' program has miles to go to get where he wants it to be.
A process as much as a journey, believes Soliday, who turns 30 in July and is prepared to dig in for the long haul.
"I think there are a lot of things that need to get done here," said Soliday, hired April 5 to replace Fred Litzenberger, who resigned after four seasons. "There was a lot of success in the past [the 1980s and 1990s under then-coach Bill Reynolds], but it's going to be a process [to return to that level]. I don't think we have to wait five years to be good. But it's going to take time to lay a foundation of what the program stands for."
For his part, Soliday, who played and coached at Concordia, a perennial NAIA power and the gold standard of the Golden State Athletic Conference, is hardly sitting or standing still.
He has spearheaded a drive to bring in seven recruits, adding to the one already signed by Litzenberger.
Soliday spent the last three seasons on former UCI Coach Pat Douglass' staff. But when Douglass' contract was not renewed following the 2009-2010 campaign, Soliday, with his second daughter on the way, was prepared to pursue his first head-coaching gig.
"My daughter [Lucy] was born three or four days before I interviewed for the Vanguard job," said Soliday, who along with wife Kim, Lucy, as well as 5-year-old daughter Peyton live in Costa Mesa. "But the reason I went to Division I was to one day be able to coach at a place like this. This is a dream come true for me."
Soliday has big dreams for the crop of incoming talent, led by Fresno State transfer Taylor Kelly.
"He didn't play much as a redshirt freshman at Fresno State last season, but he's definitely going to be a good player," Soliday said of the 6-foot-2, 200-pound combo guard out of Centennial High in Bakersfield. "We've got him for three years and I think, in our league, he is going to be a really good player. He's also a big-time person."
Another recruit with great potential, Soliday said, is Sooren Derboghosian, a 6-9, 240-pounder of Armenian descent, who came to America recently from Iran.
Cameron Khoury, a versatile 6-8 performer who is the one player recruited by the Litzenberger regime, is from Citrus Community College, as is 6-5 forward Cameron Nettles.
Nettles began his collegiate career at Mississippi Valley State, while Khoury initially played at Montana State-Billings.
Other new additions next season will be point guards Chris Pynch (Spokane Community College) and Chris Raybon (MiraCosta Community College in San Diego County). Soliday said Raybon averaged 18 points per game last season.
Najeer Mirza, a true freshman guard out of Paradise Valley High in Arizona, and Ryan Andrews, a guard from Walla Walla Community College in Washington, are both headed to Costa Mesa.
The newcomers figure to add to a stable of returners that includes senior Billy Thompson, (23 starts last season), Billy Azizi (16) and Alex Chapman (13).
The Lions lost five seniors from the 5-21 team that went 4-16 in the GSAC. Among the losses was all-conference pick Greg Scott.
Soliday has finalized his staff, with former Lions star Levi Seekins the lone holdover from the previous staff.
Brian Roberts, who also played at Vanguard, comes aboard after serving two seasons as an assistant for the Lions' women's program.
Brad Davis, a former head coach at San Clemente High and Blair High in Pasadena, is another assistant.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun