La Cañada Hires Water Polo, Girls’ Golf Coaches

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La Cañada High School athletic director Kristina Kalb announced the hiring of three new coaches last Saturday.
Gilbert Millanes will take over the boys’ water polo program, Ian Davidson is the new girls’ water polo coach and Derrick Williams will be guiding the girls’ golf team this season.
Millanes takes over the boys’ team after the resignation of Joshua Rodriguez, who accepted to be an assistant coach for the men’s team at Air Force Academy last month. Rodriguez encouraged Millanes to apply for the open position.
“I’ve known Josh for a long time,” said Millanes. “I knew he had done good things with the program. We played together at club, and he thought I would do well here.”
Under Rodriguez, the La Cañada boys’ water polo program returned to prominence and won the Rio Hondo League championship. The Spartans reached the CIF Southern Section Division 5 semifinals last year, and Millanes hopes to accomplish a similar feat this season.
“I want to obviously win league,” said Millanes. “That’s the first goal. It would be great for us to go farther in CIF. I want to create an environment and culture kids who want to learn in and out of the pool. I want to create a positive learning experience for all of these individuals so they work hard and have fun at the same time.”
The 23-year-old coach played for the City of Los Angeles Water Polo Club and South Pasadena Water Polo Club because his high school, Woodrow Wilson in L.A., did not carry the sport. He continued to play at Golden West Community College in Huntington Beach and took on elite teams such as UCLA, Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara.
Millanes also faced a lot of international competition, which only expanded his knowledge of the sport.
“I feel like I adopted their style of play,” he said. “I played against players from Hungary, Brazil and Australia, and I believe they gamble quite a bit. There’s a creativity in the international game, and they don’t have tunnel vision. They see an open look and they take a shot. It might go in, might not, but it speeds up the game. I think La Cañada kids are very intelligent and have responded well.”
Millanes is La Cañada’s seventh coach in the past nine seasons. His positive attitude has made the transition a smooth one for Kalb, parents and players.
“I’m extremely excited to work with a talented group of individuals,” Millanes said. “I’m just happy to be here and be a part of a good program that is supported by a great athletic director and great parents. Everyone has been great so far, which makes me feel very comfortable. The kids have a positive attitude and want to learn. They really do give 110% and have been taught well.”
Ian Davidson has had a similar experience in his brief time with the LCHS girls’ water polo team. He succeeds his wife Nicole, who accepted a position as the assistant coach for the UC San Diego after guiding the Spartans to a Rio Hondo League championship and a second consecutive CIF-SS quarterfinals appearance last winter. Davidson was not involved in high school athletics last year to focus on officiating and his jobs with the Rose Bowl Water Polo Club and USA development team. However, he felt the time was right for him to coach athletes outside of club.
“I think it’s more of an opportunity to help promote the sport,” said Davidson, who coached for 11 years with the San Diego Shores club. “I just want to be part of the sport that I enjoy. I love to coach kids, and I want to coach as many as possible. Coaching a high school team is such a unique opportunity. The social aspect of being a high school kid and being part of a team is different from club. In high school, there’s an ability to impact athletes on a day-to-day basis as a life coach and impact their lives.”
He is well aware of the talented core at La Cañada and hopes to help the players cement their legacy.
“Every group gets to write their own story and leave a legacy,” said Davidson, who will also be an assistant coach for the Studio City Harvard-Westlake boys’ water polo team. “They can help me set the path for La Cañada to continue being a team that is well respected in the area, and respected for doing hard work every day as young, empowered women who want to be great.”
The 30-year-old coach understands the success of the program the past two years will only place La Cañada in one of the CIF’s best divisions, but Davidson is confident the team will be competitive, regardless of where the Spartans play.
“With how CIF does its playoff divisions, it’s going to be tough, regardless of who we bring back,” he said. “Everyone’s dream is to be successful at the CIF level, but we’ll start with smaller goals like playing the best we can play in the top tournaments and winning league. I like to break up how one looks at a season into four. There’s the pre-winter portion, the winter break, the after-winter break and then the payoffs. The Villa Park Tournament is a good step for us to see how competitive we are. We have a lot of things to work on, and we have to remain humble and coachable.”
The third open coaching position at La Cañada was filled by a familiar face in Derrick Williams, who guided the varsity boys’ golf team last spring.
Under Williams, the LCHS boys’ golf team won its 13th consecutive Rio Hondo League championship.

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