Sacramento State basketball coach Brian Katz kneels next to his team during a game between Sacramento State and UC Davis at the Causeway Classic at Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento on Wednesday, November 21, 2019.

Sacramento State basketball coach Brian Katz kneels next to his team during a game between Sacramento State and UC Davis at the Causeway Classic at Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento on Wednesday, November 21, 2019.

dkim@sacbee.com

Finally, Brian Katz can sleep. Take the alarm clock and jump on the back fence.

When we spoke on the phone Friday afternoon, Katz calmed down with his decision to retire as coach of men’s basketball in Sacramento State, citing health concerns. He does not resign. He is not burned. He is pulling away from a quarrel that has been equal rewarding and meeting parts for mind, body and soul.

Katz left after 14 seasons, days before the start of the season, and he bowed as the most winning Division I coach in program history. He was always reflective, emotional, profound and funny in all our conversations for over 25 years.

Long-time assistant coach Brandon Laird will be the interim coach this season.

“I’m not dying,” Katz said with a laugh. “I am retiring. My health will not allow me to train anymore. I have had an ongoing health problem over the last two and a half years that I need to take care of, any doctor who recommended me to withdraw from the coach would be fine for me. I really haven’t said much about this to a lot of people because I don’t want to shock anyone who cares about me. I do not want people to worry. “I’m not sure if I’m going to get used to it.”

This includes extra sleep time. Katz is a wake up early. He arrived regularly at his office in Sac State, with coffee in hand, before sunrise, before the birds woke up, and not long after caretakers cleaned the place. Katz got himself into this because that’s what Katz does.

It is a local product, graduated from Casa Roble High School and graduated in 1980 from Sac State. No one worked harder or cared more. He has earned his chance to exhale. He will not return to training, but could get into media work, spoiling matches. And he will watch the sun rise from his window as he and his wife Lori realize what life has in store for them now. Road trips for one. And they have five grown children.

“We are a little upset that we do not have grandchildren yet,” Katz said with a laugh. “It would be strange for that alarm not to ring at 4 every morning, or for me to wake up at 3:50. For 45 years in training, starting when I was in 7th grade, I went like hell and tried to give every energy in every conversation with the players and staff, and I gave every effort in every practice, every meeting. , every game – from personal conversations sitting down, to grades, to life problems, to work on your dancer. ”

As for media work, Katz said: “People tell me, ‘You’re so natural!’ Well, we’re talking about basketball. I love him. If you ask me about economics, I will stutter. Or if the topic is global warming or foreign policy, I would be nervous. “

Katz did not win a series of conference championships, but that does not depend entirely on him. Sac State last won a men’s basketball conference crown in 1977. That Sac State has the poorest basketball facilities of all Division I programs in the country served as a constant barrier to recruitment, but the Katz charm brought lots of precious stones. His teams competed. They were well represented and graduated. Ninety-eight percent of Katz players graduated during the 14 seasons. Moreover, Sac State was the only public school in California to win NCAA Public Recognition honors for academic excellence. The team achieved this success four years in a row (2017-2020).

This is all a wonderful reflection on Katz’s character and message that for as much fun as it is to shoot 3-pointers or dance, the goal is to graduate.

“Very proud of that,” Katz said. “Every decision I made at Sac State was based on what is in the best interest of the player, and we lived by that. You can not look a child in the eye and expect him to respect you, play hard for you and love you if he does not feel this from you. Once a player said at a home meal at our house that he had never had so much food for a meal. He was taught to be hungry. It made my daughter cry. We wanted to show what a happy home looks like, or if a player knew what it looked like, this has been reaffirmed. “I tried to be a role model for our players.”

Katz has an excellent regional reputation among area preparation coaches, for his courtesy, personality and influence. Said Rob Richards, former Antelope High boys coach, “(Katz) took an underfunded, under-run program and turned it into a winner on the field and in the classroom.”

Katz praised wife Lori for her support. It is not easy to train and balance a home life.

“Oh, she’s amazing,” Katz said. “There is no way I could have done this for as long as I did and as hard as I did without her support, all the sacrifices, the stress, everything from A to Z. I tell new coaches when they ask what the key is. great Success in training is, and I say, ‘It will be your wife. Find that balance. ”

Katz said his farewell to the players and staff on Friday was emotional. Tears everywhere, from everyone.

“I’m tired of crying,” he said. “I did it early in the morning. “I feel good knowing that people care.”

Katz is pleased that Laird, his longtime assistant, is leading the program. This made his decision to retire much easier.

“An extraordinary coach, an extraordinary person and a coach as good as he is in the country,” said Katz. “He has invested. He is extremely smart, extremely hardworking and has an excellent relationship with the players. His character and integrity are insurmountable. The program is in the best hands they can be. ”

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Joe Davidson has covered sports for The Sacramento Bee since 1988. He is a 14-time award winner from the California Sports Writers Association. In 2021, Davidson was honored with the outstanding CIF service. He is a member of the Hall of Fame of the California Coaches Association. Davidson was a high school athlete in Oregon, where he participated in football and track.

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