Cary Nerelli spent more than 40 years as a high school cross country, girls basketball and track and field coach.

His teams did a lot of winning.

Hancock College’s current veteran women’s basketball coach led Morro Bay’s girls to five league basketball titles, three CIF Southern Section divisional championships and four runner-up finishes.

For all that success, Nerelli was inducted into the CIF Southern Section Hall of Fame in 2014.

“I am a little overwhelmed,” Nerelli said back then. “I realize how big of an honor this is. But I have to share it with all my assistant coaches, as well as my wife, Kathie, and two daughters.

“The recognition validated the thousands of hours I put into preparing my athletes not only to succeed in sports, but also in life. Sports is the way I have chosen to help people mature and make a difference in the world.”

Nerelli was then inducted into the Northern Santa Barbara County Hall of Fame in 2018.

Since his induction, multiple Nerelli-coached Hancock teams have qualified for the playoffs.

In 2020, the Bulldogs made it to the second round of the state playoffs despite often carrying just six players, and just five on at least one occasion, because of injuries.

The Bulldogs beat perennial state power Ventura for the first time in recent memory.

Nerelli’s first year at the helm at Hancock was the 2013-14 season. He guided the Bulldogs to their most successful season in 11 years.

“What makes coach Nerelli so successful is that he doesn’t coach with his ego, he coaches with his heart,” Hancock athletic director Kim Ensing has said.

“This is a great testament to recognize someone who has been mentoring young people his entire life. We are lucky to have him at Hancock.”

Nerelli ranked 23rd all-time in state history in career wins for a high school basketball coach, 456, at the time of his induction in 2014.

He counted winning Morro Bay’s first sectional cross country championship in 1982 and the school’s first basketball championship in 1991 as two of the most memorable moments in his high school coaching career.

Dozens of Nerelli’s Hancock players have moved on to play at four-year universities, with Milan McGary and Sarah Gudeman from the 2019-20 squad having done so.

McGary signed with Cal State Channel Islands. Gudeman with the University of Maine-Fort Kent.

“Every coach has a shred of doubt that he or she is not doing enough,” Nerelli said before his induction.

“This award tells me I am doing things the right way. I must be doing enough. It is a very humbling and gratifying feeling.”

Player of the Decade: We're looking for the top player of the last 10 seasons

The sports staff at the Santa Maria Times, Lompoc Record and Santa Ynez Valley News is looking for the top football player from Northern Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County over the last 10 seasons of high school ball.

See who our nominees are thus far.

Senior Spotlight Series: Celebrating the area's top senior student-athletes

Our 'Senior Spotlight' series is aimed at highlighting senior student-athletes who have had their final year of high school disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. The athletes featured here were their school's nominee for Athlete of the Year or Student Athlete of the Year for the Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table's end-of-year banquet that has been canceled due to the outbreak.


Recommended for you