Dandy debut for Rocklin basketball coach

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Michael Lorente is not fond of the blue "HUSTLE" socks worn by Rocklin High School's boys basketball players, so the first-year head coach mentioned one day that he might get rid of them. The players wasted no time in setting Lorente straight. The socks have been around a lot longer than he has. Lorente might be new to these parts, but he knows better than to toy with a tradition. "There was an uproar," Lorente said. "There are certain things in the program that I don't want to change." Lorente can live with the socks as long as his players do their part by hustling. That is not debatable. "I don't harp on mistakes unless they're effort mistakes. I can live with the turnovers and missed shots," Lorente said. "I would rather have a 100 percent mistake than a 50 percent screw-up." The coach proved to be a man of his word Tuesday night in Rocklin's 71-49 victory over Florin. Lorente was quick to pull players who did not box out for rebounds, play defense or run at all times in the season opener. Rocklin jumped ahead early, giving Lorente an opportunity to substitute liberally as he had hoped. "I really wanted a lot of guys to get in and break a sweat," Lorente said. "I wanted to get those first-game jitters out of the way. I really wanted everybody to score, but that didn't happen." Lorente did not feel any undue pressure in his debut. He said he has felt right at home since being hired in August. "The kids were very welcoming, just as the parents and (school) administration have been," he said. "Every coach would love to have these parents. We have great families, and I've already fallen in love with them." Parents can turn on a coach, however, when a team does not play to expectations. Lorente knows that all too well. "I don't feel scrutinized," he said, "as much as I feel supported." Lorente held a meeting with the parents of his players so they could become acquainted with him. "I know Rocklin has a reputation, but the parents are not looking back. They're looking forward to seeing what we can do," Lorente said. "It's fair to say the expectations are not that high … except for internally." Putting his stamp on the program is not a priority for Lorente, who figures that will happen "over a period of time." A season-opening victory is a positive start, but there are many more games to be played. "It's so much about making it my program," he said. "We're taking baby steps right now. It's like how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."