A year after hoops drama, school loses football coach, too

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

If you're a coach looking for a long-term, stable place to land, you might want to shy away from Chino Hills (Calif.) Ayala High. To say that the school has developed a touch of drama when it comes to coaching appointments and dismissals is quite an understatement. Consider: In the span of 16 months, the school has fired and re-hired its boys basketball coach, only to watch him resign, and then lost its football coach because of a bizarre technicality unique to its own bylaws.

Clearly, continuity is not something the school's athletic department values highly. Here's the full backstory:

Longtime Ayala football coach Tom Inglima
Longtime Ayala football coach Tom Inglima

In March 2010, Ayala fired its boys basketball coach Kenny Donovan after only one season in charge. He led his team to a 17-12 record, not bad for a first run in charge, or so felt the horde of parents who complained to the school's principal.

That's when the administration did a complete 180, reinstating Donovan just days after giving him the axe. While he first accepted the re-appointment -- "The principal apologized," Donovan told the L.A. Times. "She said she made a mistake." -- he resigned months later, citing the often euphemistic desire to "spend more time with his family." Perhaps he just wanted to spend less time around an administration that cut ties with him on remarkably short shrift.

Now, less than a year after Donovan's final resignation, the Times is reporting that Ayala football coach Tom Inglima is leaving the school. Well, leaving is a kind way to put it. According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the five-year head coach -- who is pictured above -- was forced to leave his physical education teaching position at Ayala for one at Chino (Calif.) High as part of budget cutbacks.

Normally, that wouldn't eliminate a coach from maintaining his position. Yet, at Ayala it does. The school has a policy that its head football coach can not be a "walk-on" coach (meaning he has to work inside the school itself). That ruled out Ayala, despite his transforming an 0-10 team into a 9-3 divisional playoff squad in just three years.

Making the matter even more awkward is that Ayala's sons are integral parts of the Ayala team, with his oldest son Tommy Jr. expected to serve as a key two-way starter in 2011.

"It's very hard to leave because my sons are there and I put my heart and soul into that football program," Inglima told the Tribune. "I met a lot of good people at Ayala and had the time of my life there. I felt we built a strong program the community was proud of, and was excited about the upcoming season.

"But it was also instilled in me to stay positive, that's the Bulldog way, to keep your chin up. At the end of the day I'm lucky to have a teaching job. I was at Diamond Bar years ago and was laid off and know how devastating that is for you and your family. Although I would have loved to have kept coaching at Ayala, I'm still working and hope the ripple effect hasn't cost another person their job."

Clearly, Inglima has the right perspective on handling such a disappointing setback, one which came of no fault of his own. Still, it's hard not to find some fault with Ayala … again. California coaches, consider yourself forewarned.

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