East County Sports

Young Totah earned El Cap boys hoop job



By Ramon Scott



LAKESIDE – In some rough times over the last year for the West Hills High boys basketball program, coach ELIAS TOTAH was there to help hold things together.

From the sudden passing of head coach JEFF ARMSTRONG last summer to having to fill in as head coach during an illness in the family of current Wolf Pack skipper TIM BARRY, Totah has been a counselor, coach, brother and organizer for the West Hills program.

And his overall duties with the team came sooner than he expected because of the circumstances.

El Capitan head basketball coach ELIAS TOTAH

The young basketball coach has been serving for five years as a freshman and junior varsity coach, as well as, a varsity assistant with his eyes on a prep head coaching job one day, maybe even in west Santee.

But after showing that he could handle not just the day-to-day leadership duties that usually have been handled by his mentors until recently, El Capitan athletics director JASON CAVAZOS probably couldn’t ignore the fact that Totah has the already determination, maturity, and now, experience to be a varsity head coach as such a young age, hiring Totah to guide the Vaqueros’ boys program.

He replaces Cavazos, who coached the team for a majority of the season after the  JEFF BICKFORD stepped down following a violation of section procedures.

Totah, a 23-year-old former Wolf Pack guard, takes over a team with several core players returning from a 15-14 club that finished 5-5 in the Grossmont Valley League.

“I was very hungry to seize a varsity coaching position,” Totah said on Saturday. “West Hills has been my home for the past nine years, dating back to me being a student there. I’m going to miss the players the most at West Hills the most. They will always have a place in my heart.”

Totah doesn’t rule out a return to West Hills one day but he is anxious to start a head coaching career. He is the brother of current West Hills senior MICHAEL TOTAH, a point guard on the team over the last two seasons.

“I want to say thank you to all of the coaches, players, admin, and families at West Hills for the love and support through the years,” Totah said. “It has been an honor to coach for that program and I’m extremely appreciative.”

Totah’s desire was to serve and learn under Armstrong and Barry, two veterans of the local coaching circuit. While he was looking to put his experience to work on the varsity level as soon as possible, he may have been content to continue his apprenticeship under the guidance of his close friends.

But that changed following Armstrong’s death. And when Barry’s wife, Stacy, took ill at the start of the New Year, Totah was thrust into the role of acting head coach.

“I have understood what it takes to become a varsity head coach from the mentorship of the late, great Jeff Armstrong,” Totah said. “His legacy has so much more validity now then it ever has, and he lives on forever. I want to thank him because this has his imprints all over it.”

Totah has already earned the respect of his older peers on the circuit, stepping up to lead the Pack team under unexpected circumstances. The youthful coach carries an honest demeanor of determination and cooperation that should make for the right fit for the Vaqueros at this time.

“I want to say thank you to Principal Laura Whittaker, Assistant Principal Eric Jesperson, and Athletic Director Jason Cavazos, for taking a chance on me,” Totah said. “I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity at El Capitan High School and I’m ready to get to work.”


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