East County Sports

Hills League gets coaching makeover

Steele Canyon varsity head coach Aaron Douglas



By Nick Pellegrino


SPRING VALLEY – Ryan Meier, who guided La Jolla Country Day School to the CIF Division III boys basketball state championship in 2018-19, is the new head coach at Mount Miguel High this season. But the high-profile hire isn’t the only change at the helm in the Grossmont Hills League.


Meier, who posed a record of 226-186 over 14 seasons with the Torreys, officially replaces Jay Rowlett, who suddenly passed away due to a heart attack at the end of February. The following month, Meier resigned from his LJCD post. A.J. Stanford, a Mount Miguel grad, was the Matadors’ interim coach last season following Rowlett’s early-season resignation.


“It was just time for a change,” Meier told The San Diego Union-Tribune last March. “I love coaching too much to completely walk away from coaching. I like what I do way too much. But I squeezed out as much as I could offer Country Day.”


It was a darn good offering: two CIF-San Diego Section championships — Division IV in 2011-12; Division III in 2018-19 prior to winning the state crown — and advanced to the Southland regionals on five occasions.


In all, Meier owns 284 career victories, including 58 over three seasons at Francis Parker before moving to the Golden Triangle.


Mount Miguel also fields several high-profile coaches in multiple CIF champions in Robbie Sandoval (girls basketball) and Troy Starr (football while at Helix).


“Obviously, the state championship is the highlight of my time at Country Day,” Meier also told the UT. “But seeing players advance their careers at great universities means a lot.”


Most recently, Meier sent six players to high-end academic colleges: Ryan Langborg (Princeton), Alex Cho (MIT), Josiah Esselstrom (Westmont), Bruce Edwards (Ursinus), Jayson Taylor (Tufts), and Ben Daugherty (Elon).


If Meier can accomplish the same at a public school, the Matadors could regain their glory of the 1960s, which featured one of the section’s all-time best clubs when Mount Miguel posted a perfect 32-0 mark in 1967-68. The school also captured two SDS-CIF division championships under Rowlett, a proven winner, in 2010 and 2018.


The addition of Meier gives a completely new look to the Grossmont Hills League after El Capitan coach Jason Cavazos recently took over at Helix for the retiring John Singer, and following the hiring of Meier’s former LJCD assistant Aaron Douglas, a former Cuyamaca Coyote and walk-on at San Diego State. Also, former junior varsity coach Jacob Ober has been promoted to head varsity coach at Grossmont High.


Douglas, just 29, was Meier’s top assistant at La Jolla Country Day from 2013-16, and later was an assistant basketball coach for the Southwestern College Jaguars.


Meier and the Cougars have also added former San Diego Christian College player Dominique Watkins as a head varsity assistant. Watkins started his collegiate playing career at Chadron State.


Meanwhile,  Ober, a long-time local businessman, will soon be altering how he does business in the sports industry.


Instead of simply selling products to teams and leagues, he will now be coaching them after it was announced that he will take over as the head varsity basketball coach at Grossmont.


Ober, who headed the Hillers’ junior varsity program as the “coach-in-wait,” will take over for legendary coach Frank Foggiano, who has been a driving force behind the Foothillers as both coach and athletic director for many decades.


Ober has been co-owner/operator of Retro Sports in La Mesa. He joined the company in May 2000, then he and his business partner purchased the firm outright some five years ago.


Retro Sports has transitioned from a used sports equipment firm into a team sports store that does print products, uniforms, and spirit gear for youth sports (mainly baseball, softball, and soccer teams), high schools, and businesses. It specializes in embroidery and screen printing, all done in-house.

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