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Don Loperena announced he’s no longer the boys basketball coach at Granada Hills Charter on Monday morning via Twitter.
“They told me they’re going in a different direction,” Loperena said of his Zoom meeting with administrative director Norm Holloway and athletic director Cristina Garcia.
Loperena is still an employed physical education teacher at the school.
It’s the end of a 16-year run for Loperena, who has been on leave since late January after an anonymous letter to school administration complaining about his coaching. The letter is believed to be from a basketball parent, according to multiple sources.
“I tell my players I love them,” Loperena said. “My players know the truth.”
Since interim coach Jon Bent led the Highlanders to the City Section Division I semifinals on Feb. 22, uncertainty regarding who the coach will be has led to rumors of players leaving the program. Senior-to-be Gary Ekmekjian has taken on the roll of “recruiter” of his own team, convincing teammates not to leave.
“It’s been troubling to continue without a coach,” Ekmekjian said. “I’m trying to use (the time) to work on myself and enter more of a leader-type role. I’m extremely disappointed coach (Loperena) is not my coach anymore. I feel like he matched my competitive drive.”
With mixed emotions I will no longer be coaching at GHCHS. What a blessing it has been! THANK YOU to EVERYONE that has supported me over the years! To my players-you frustrated a lot of opponents over the years! Thanks for making me look good. u guys!
— Don Loperena (@Coach_Lope) July 6, 2020
Loperena, who’s expecting a newborn son any day, won the City Section Division I title in 2019, however, one of his best coaching accomplishments came in 2018 when he led Granada Hills to the Open Division semifinals for the first time in program history, winning one game without an All-City player.
Asked if he has a desire to coach again, Loperena said, “Absolutely.”
Ekmekjian, point guard Khalil Forrester and shooting guard Kris Cook will be the Highlanders’ top players next season.
Calls and emails to Granada Hills Charter have not been returned.