Fryer: Right place, right time for Kunau


Real estate people like to tell clients that these are the three most important elements when seeking a house: location, location, location.

Those three elements were foremost in Jim Kunau's mind when he decided to resume coaching high school football.

"I know it sounds funny to hear somebody say this in Southern California," Kunau said, "but I actually can walk to work now."

Kunau will return to coaching in Orange County when the 2013 season begins. Kunau this week accepted the head coaching position at Canyon, which became vacant when Brent McKee resigned after the 2012 season.

He was Orange Lutheran's coach for 19 seasons until he was relieved of his duties following the 2011 season.

Why Canyon, and why now?

"I wanted to get back to working with young men in football," Kunau said Thursday. "And where we (wife Betsy and their daughter) live is a five-minute walk from campus. This is an opportunity to contribute to the school and the community."

In those 19 seasons at Lutheran, Kunau's teams won 13 league championships, including three in the Trinity League, two CIF-Southern Section championships and a CIF State championship. The Lancers qualified for the playoffs for 16 consecutive seasons before falling short in Kunau's final two seasons, 2010 and '11.

Kunau at Canyon will be a walk-on coach, which is a coach who is not on a school's faculty or staff. His coaching stipend will be $4,700. Kunau will continue as a professor in the Masters in Coaching and Athletic Administration program at Concordia, where his wife is executive director of development.

Kunau transformed Lutheran from a small-schools winner to one of the top programs in Southern California. More remarkable is that Kunau did so with not so much as a peep that he was building the program with illegal tactics such as recruiting. Lutheran football was known not only for winning but also for sportsmanship.

Canyon was 3-7 overall and 1-5 in the Century League this past season. The Comanches were 0-10 in 2011. McKee had the challenge of trying to keep Canyon competitive in a good league while fighting off, successfully, a cancer scare.

Canyon has good athletes on campus, but sometimes when a program hits hard times those athletes will avoid participation. Losing also affects attitudes of the good athletes who are on the roster.

Kunau can change all of that. His presence at Canyon also makes the school a destination for football-minded students and, especially, their parents in these days when students and their parents shop for schools.

Taking a look around Orange County high school sports:

•Servite is in discussions with national power De La Salle of Concord for a football game next fall. De La Salle, which won its fifth football state championship last week, is on its winter break so discussions will not resume until January. De La Salle would have to ask one of its 2013 opponents to withdraw from its commitment to play De La Salle, thus creating the available game for Servite, and that's not an easy task.

•As usual, the Register and staff had plenty of choices when it came to selecting the county football coach and players of the year. Edison's Dave White and Corona del Mar's Scott Meyer certainly were leading candidates for the coach of the year honor that went to Mater Dei's Bruce Rollinson. El Toro quarterback Conner Manning, Edison defensive lineman Derek Baljeu and Mission Viejo defensive lineman Garrett Marina were in the mix for the offensive and defensive player of they year awards that went to, respectively, Mater Dei's Thomas Duarte and Mission Viejo's Max Redfield.

•On this voter's ballot, Duarte and Redfield were the two best players in county football.

•Selecting All-County teams is the toughest part of this job, no matter the sport. There is such a thin margin between a player who is first-team and second-team All-County, and second- and third-team, and between a third-team selection and an athlete who barely misses the cut.

•The Mater Dei varsity boys basketball team picture that is in the Jim Harris Memorial Tournament of Champions program shows the team has 25 players and 13 coaches. Many county teams don't have 13 players.

•The Orange County North/South Challenge boys basketball showcase today and Saturday at El Toro features Brethren Christian and its 7-foot-5 center, Mamadou Ndiaye, playing Capistrano Valley today at 5 p.m. It would be a superior marketing move to have Brethren-Capo Valley as the 8 p.m. game instead of Ocean View-Tesoro, which is a good matchup but does not have the nation's tallest high school basketball player in it.

•Mater Dei's girls basketball team, No. 1 in the county and No. 3 in the nation, this week is playing in the Nike Tournament of Champions in Chandler, Ariz. There is a good chance the Monarchs will play the nation's No. 1-ranked team, St. Mary's of Phoenix, in the tournament.

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