Santa Maria tabs Cipriano as new boys basketball coach

Johnny Cipriano, the man who turned the Santa Rosa Warriors into a premier boys basketball power, signed Tuesday to become the next boys basketball coach at Santa Maria.

Cipriano is replacing Albert Briones, who will be leading the Brownsville Veterans Memorial Chargers after 10 years at Santa Maria.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity. Thank you to Santa Maria for giving me the call and giving me the opportunity, and hopefully I’m going to do great things there and not disappoint anybody,” Cipriano said.

Cipriano coached at Santa Rosa for 22 years and led the Warriors to heights no other hoops program has reached. They won 16 district or co-district championships, reached the regional tournament nine times and made three trips to the UIL state tournament in 2009, 2017 and 2018.

In May 2020, the Santa Rosa ISD board of trustees voted to not renew Cipriano’s contract. He appealed the decision and in June 2020, the proposed non-renewal of his contract was overturned. Cipriano was cleared to remain as boys basketball coach/athletic director for the 2020-21 school year, but he did not return to his alma mater.

After a brief hiatus, Cipriano is looking forward to returning to the sideline and leading another of the Valley’s consistent programs. The Santa Maria Cougars have won six district titles during the past 10 years and reached the regional tournament twice — first in 2014 as a Class 1A school and then in 2020 at the Class 2A level.

“I wanted to get back in the mix. It was one of several openings that I applied for, and fortunately I got this one,” Cipriano said. “It’s exciting. I know it’s a basketball community. I know Coach Briones did a good job of building something there, so it’s not like I’m having to rebuild or anything, I’m just going to try and build on what he already established there.”

Cipriano said he’s looking forward to being around the game again and getting back into a tight-knit, basketball-loving community. He has plenty of experience working in a small school district and getting the most out of players, and he said he’s excited to see what level the Cougars are at and start making adjustments to keep the program building.

“That’s one of the things that I like about it, that it is a small community and it becomes a little more family oriented. I’m looking forward to getting to know people and getting to know the players, and going from there,” Cipriano said. “I’m just a competitor. I hate to lose. I’m going to use that, and hopefully instill that in the players and build something special there, too.”

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