Earlier this year, Gonzaga College High School coach Steve Turner compared WCAC rivals Gonzaga and DeMatha to Duke and North Carolina. If that’s the case, then this year Florida State snuck in and won the league championship.
In the shadow of two of the nation’s most visible programs, Paul VI emerged as the best team in the super competitive WCAC this season. Glen Farello’s Panthers rolled through the league undefeated and last weekend capped a 32-2 season with a Virginia Independent Schools state championship.
With all due respect to the state tournament, the gauntlet Paul VI ran through during the WCAC season was grueling. One could make the argument that the WCAC is not only the best league in the nation; it’s the most-prospect laced conference.
Farello’s team went undefeated on the road (that means wins at Gonzaga and DeMatha). “To go 9-0 on the road in this league is ridiculous,” Farello said. “The kids maintained their focus. They were locked in the moment and as time went on, they realized they were trying to make history.”
Steve Smith of Oak Hill went 44-0 and deserves the national awards he’s won. Farello, the guy with not nearly the national swag as Smith, deserves to be on the ballot in the conversations. He went 21-0 in the best league in America. He was the choice for WCAC coach of the year.
“It validates the work these kids have put in,” Farello said. “To me, this is the best conference in the country – top to bottom – because of its storied tradition. To win for the first time in school history is big. We’ve been building and it makes it all that more special.”
How’d Farello, the guy who never previously coached or played in the league before coming on board a few seasons ago, make this run? For starters, he’s got great players. Not good players, great ones and recruitable guys. At least eight players on the current roster will eventually sign with Division I schools, some of them high-major.
This was Farello’s first year with trusted assistant Kenny Johnson. Last summer, Johnson put the high school and AAU game in his rearview mirror and split for his first college job, Towson. Johnson had one foot in Paul VI’s program and another in the talent pool of Team Takeover, the program where he was an assistant. Half of the Division I prospects on the squad run with Takeover, one of the nation’s best AAU programs.
“Kenny Johnson was with our program and now he’s at Towson,” Farello said. “He and I started this thing and he helped build our program. We’ve got the right pieces and it was a lot of fun building it and finding the right kids to bring in.”
Stanford Robinson (Fairfax, Va./Paul VI) has been a pillar player, one of the strongmen in Paul VI’s foundation building project. Rated No. 46 in the Class of 2013, the wing became fully invested in the construction process of this team. When Paul VI captured its first league title, Robinson broke out into tears. When a younger member of the squad tried to make light of his emotions, Robinson took offense.
“You’re just a freshman, you weren’t here when we started,” Robinson shot back. Farello knew what Robinson meant. “He has that kind of an emotional investment. He cared so much about winning. (Robinson just) shook his head.”
Farello’s first-ever WCAC championship team is a success story. We’ve painted – and rightfully so – Gonzaga and DeMatha as powerhouse clubs. We put them on TV and built up their players as titans in the recruiting world. Between the two, they probably have half dozen Top 100 caliber players. Many of them dominated headlines. Well, Paul VI isn't too shabby.
Here’s a breakdown on their guys from their coach’s perspective.
Glenn Farello’s Personnel Report on Paul VI