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Picchi Contemplating Stepping Down at Sequoia

He won a state championship with Burlingame 25 years ago and has coached at the college level.

 

Sequoia High girls' basketball coach Steve Picchi considers himself one of the luckiest people on earth.

In his seventh year as a teacher and coach at the school, Picchi sits in the new gymnasium on campus and marvels at his good fortune.

"This is a great place to work," he said. "Sequoia is a phenomenal place for kids. They have a caring staff, caring faculty and administration and a caring community. I feel like I have been blessed."

Picchi, age 54, has been considering his future and is leaning toward giving up his coaching job to spend time with his family and pursue other opportunities.

"It's a possibility," Picchi said of stepping away from a game he has been involved with at some level for the past 35 years. "I reserve the right to change my mind."

He points to players like seniors Alana Woo, Natalie Harden and Sydney Albin as reasons to stay.

"They prolonged my coaching career," he said. "I was ready to step down after their freshmen year. They are such great kids though, hard working, competitive, responsible and receptive."

Woo, Sequoia's point guard, was the PAL Ocean Division Player of the Year last season.

The Cherokees are playing in the PAL Bay Division this season and were on a three-game winning streak until losing to Mills, 36-28, on Wednesday night.

It's an accomplishment for Sequoia to qualify for the Central Coast Section, something it has done the past two years and is seeking to do again. He wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

It might have been a different story 25 years ago, when Picchi led Burlingame High to the 1988 state Division III championship. The Panthers compiled a 36-2 record, a 30-game winning streak and remain the only CCS public school girls basketball team ever to capture a California Interscholastic Federation title.

Burlingame is hosting a 25-year reunion for the team on Feb. 12. Picchi won't be there. He'll be on the bench, coaching his Cherokees.

Picchi went on to coach at Santa Clara University, College of Notre Dame, returned to Burlingame,then taught at San Lorenzo and coached boys basketball at Arroyo High. He was also an assistant at Chabot College before coming to Sequoia.

Picchi knew he wanted to coach basketball when he was an eighth-grader at St. Catherine's in Burlingame. He was helping coach a fifth-grade team at Washington.

When he was a junior at Burlingame, Picchi was hired by Mike Ciardella and Ray Wagner of the Burlingame Recreation Department to coach elementary school basketball.

"Little did I realize it at the time it would become my career," Picchi said. "After the first week I told my dad I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up."

A chance meeting with then College of San Mateo coach Tom Martinez in 1983 changed Picchi's outlook on coaching.

Woodside's Wendy Brown was a force back then. A terrific athlete who won the state track title for the Wildcats by herself in 1984.

Martinez, famous for helping to develop Tom Brady into one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks ever, came to a game between his Panthers and host Mills High. Picchi turned to him and asked for advice on defending Brown.

"Three hours later, in the parking lot at Mills High, he described his defense and the next day we beat Woodside," Picchi said. "He took me under his wing long before Tom Brady."

Martinez coached, and was considered a guru, in football, women's basketball and softball. He passed away leaving a long list of devoted coaches and athletes.

"I saw a lot of similarities between Steve Picchi and Tom Martinez," Hillsdale High Athletic Director Brad Zucker said. "They both thought for themselves and stayed away from cliches. Martinez told us to always be able to answer 'Why?' That's how I see Steve."

Zucker, age 38, was Burlingame's frosh-soph girls basketball coach while Picchi coached the varsity.

"At the time I was going to every coaching clinic I could," Zucker said. "We became friends and he became the best mentor I've had in coaching. He was able to simply things and was the best I've seen at getting kids to do exactly what he wanted them to do. He's also one of most competitive."

Zucker has coached football and basketball at Hillsdale and attended UCLA, where he met and spoke with coaches like Jim Harrick and Steve Lavin. He also worked with Jim Harbaugh when he was at Stanford.

Zucker has some perspective.

"It's so clear he cares about kids," Zucker said of Picchi. "I won't be surprised if he was back and helping someone soon."

For now, Picchi is enjoying life with his two daughters, Amber and Christina, ages 16 and 14.

Amber is a star volleyball player at Castro Valley and plays club volleyball. Picchi and Christina are always in the stands, cheering her on.

"I am so throughly enjoying watching Amber compete at a high level," Picchi said. "It's a great family situation. It's as good as it gets."

Picchi still coordinates basketball camps with the Burlingame Rec Center a couple of weeks a year, teaching volleyball to girls.

"I just need a change of pace," Picchi said of his possible departure. "I plan to teach here until I'm through teaching. I just want time to look at different possibilities."

Just be careful when asking him a question. You just might spend three hours in the Sequoia High parking lot.

What are your thoughts about Steve? Please share them in the comments.

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