When the then-Desiree Domingues took over in 2015 as coach of the Righetti girls basketball team she used to play for, the team had been through four coaches in the previous four seasons.
The Warriors had not been to the playoffs since 2012.
Since the now-Desiree Hitch became the team’s coach the Warriors have been to the playoffs the past four years, won an outright league championship (with 14-0 league campaigns both times) twice and earned one co-league championship, in Hitch’s first year.
The fifth-year Righetti coach, a four-time league Defensive Player of the Year there before she graduated in 2008, earned her 100th coaching win at Righetti when the Warriors won 55-40 at Mission Prep Friday night.
Besides coaching at her alma mater, Hitch is also a special education teacher there.
“I’ve been very fortunate to coach players like Zane Sheckherd, Ashley Reynoso, Danita Estorga, Alijah Paquet,” Hitch said Saturday night after the Warriors rallied for a 61-57 Mountain League win at crosstown rival Pioneer Valley, notching her 101st career win.
All four players were a big part of Righetti’s past league championship teams. Estorga plays for Biola, Sheckherd plays for Sonoma State, and Reynoso plays for Cal State Monterey Bay.
Alijah Paquet is having a solid freshman season for the Hancock College women’s squad. Her younger sister, Alex, is a starter for Hitch.
Hitch is now 101-25 all time as Righetti's coach, winning over 80 percent of her games.
Hitch also expressed her appreciation for her current players, such as junior Malia Cabigon, a three-year starter for Hitch, whose current squad is 14-2, including 3-0 in the Mountain League.
Hitch’s assistant, Natalie Gruspe, has been with Hitch since her first year of coaching at Righetti. Hitch has said more than once how vital Gruspe is for her.
“Natalie keeps track of who’s in foul trouble, who’s getting tired,” Hitch said Saturday night.
“She also watches the players’ body language when they come off the court. She lets me know who’s feeling down, who might need some encouragement.”
Hitch is not typically one of the more animated coaches on the Central Coast. Still, “Natalie’s the calm one,” Hitch said with a chuckle. “I’m the yeller.”
The Warriors had an awful first half of shooting Saturday night and trailed most of the way before nailing the win by making all of their last six free throws.
When she was asked afterward if an emotional letdown by her team after getting Hitch’s 100th win for her played into the squad’s rough shooting night, Hitch demurred.
“I think it was just (the effect of) playing two league games in two nights,” she said. This is the first year Mountain League teams (though not every week) play a Friday-Saturday league schedule.
Hitch and her husband, Dominic, are expecting their first child. “The due date is March 27, after the season,” she said with a smile earlier.
Righetti’s fifth-year coach acknowledged Saturday night that, “I get more tired than usual. After practices and games, I’m usually pretty tired.
“Natalie has some a good job of keeping me calm, and my husband has helped a lot.”
Righetti will host Arroyo Grande (2-0 Mountain League) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night as the squads play for first place.
After a 13-10 2018-19, Hitch’s lowest season win total at Righetti (her teams had won more than 20 games in each of her first three seasons), the Warriors have gotten the job done this year with a tough man-to-man defense.
“I’ve just been really fortunate to get the program I did,” said Hitch.