Before the 2017-2018 season head coach Joshua Thomas had high expectations after being hired to take over a struggling Santa Monica College basketball program. After being an assistant coach at the junior college level for eight seasons, Thomas made the jump to being head man and had aspirations of changing the program in the right direction. “I was really excited to become a head coach,” recalls Thomas. The excitement could have diminished the first year head coach after learning that 9 of his 11 players expected back were academically ineligible at the time of his hiring. Three players returned from that squad, but the Corsairs struggled on the floor and won only three games in his first full season as head man on the sidelines.
After the 2017-2018 campaign, Thomas and his staff hit the recruiting trail and looked to change the Corsair Culture. After tallying 3 wins the year before, Thomas used an honest approach when it came to recruiting. “If you come here, I promise you that we will have a chance to win and plenty of playing time,” said Thomas. It was the beginning of the culture change at Santa Monica as Thomas had a chance to bring in the players he wanted to represent the program. With a brand new roster and tons of new talent, it was evident from the Socal Jamboree the Corsairs were a different team. Santa Monica went on to make one of the biggest turn arounds of the year despite the inconsistency on the floor. The Corsairs finished the regular season with a 17-11 record and a 2nd place finish in the Western State South Conference. “We had a very young group with a lot of freshmen and it was challenging as we struggled to lock in,” added Thomas. Despite the challenges, the young Corsairs earned a 15 seed in the Southern California post season. After a first round home victory over San Diego City College, the Corsairs followed that up with an upset road win over 2nd seeded East Los Angeles. The Corsairs were peaking at the right time and went on to win another road game over Riverside. The win sent Santa Monica to Ventura and a place at the Elite Eight. The Corsairs would match up against a talented San Francisco City College team and were three wins away from the state championship. Santa Monica played solid the whole game but ended up losing in a closely fought battle 67-63.
After making a deep post season run, the Corsairs were now on the map and a marked team. Thomas and his hardworking staff went into the new season with state championship aspirations. Santa Monica came into the new season and did not shy away from competition. Thomas and company loaded their schedule with the number one strength of schedule in the state. “We wanted to learn our lessons early by playing in big games as the state championship was our goal,” said Thomas. Santa Monica opened up the season six of their first seven games including wins over San Bernardino, San Diego, Chaffey, and Cerritos. The Corsairs were clearly to compete with the usual Southern California powerhouses and Thomas gave all praise to his players. “Our program is a partnership and a two way street,” said Thomas. The two way street and culture established helped the Corsairs to a 20 win campaign and another trip to the post season as a four seed. After having a first round bye, Santa Monica went on to a win a 2nd round game against Irvine Valley and moved into the sweet 16. In the next match up the Corsairs faced 5th seeded Riverside and suffered a season ending loss to their season Despite the third round exit from the post season, it was apparent that Thomas and his coaching staff had established the culture at Santa Monica.
The culture is not just on the court, off the floor Coach Thomas has made it a high priority to move guys on to the four year level. “We recruit talent, and college ready academic players.” We monitor grades by doing bi weekly grade checks and make sure guys are taken the right classes to move on to the university level,” added Thomas. The Corsairs are in heavy rotation in the social media aspect of their program. “Social media is trending, and it gives us a way to market our program around the nation,” said Thomas. It is a great tool for guys to be seen by universities and the Corsairs are one of the best in the state promoting their student athletes. “It is our duty as coaches to let four year programs around the nation to know how we do things about our players.” added Thomas. As this season approaches after having the year off due to covid, the Santa Monica program is in full throttle and will look to have another successful season. Thomas credits his assistants with the quick turnaround and the Corsairs should be in the mix of things as they look to be one of the top programs in the state.