For 19 anonymous seasons, Gregg Barden was perfectly content coaching junior varsity football at Los Angeles Belmont. Then the school needed a varsity coach three years ago and Barden accepted.
This season, he guided the Sentinels to their first City Section football championship in school history, winning the Division III title and finishing 14-0 in City Section action. He created excitement and interest on campus in a sport that has taken a back seat for years to soccer and cross country.
For his efforts, Barden has been selected The Times' coach of the year.
Belmont doesn't get many players with football experience, so Barden must train his players from scratch.
"We had kids who really liked the sport and followed it," he said. "We got more kids out for football. We had greater depth than we've had."
Equally important, Barden said, "to be a championship-caliber team, you not only have to be good football players but also good people. Our kids weren't perfect, but by and large, we have really good kids. What I'm most proud is the way the kids week after week bounced back. They were really unflappable."
Belmont lost to Coronado in a regional bowl game to finish 14-1.