Perhaps it comes with being an AP Chemistry teacher, but Richard Yoon always seems to come up with the right formula at the right time for the Rosary girls’ basketball team.
A little box-and-one defense here, a 1-3-1 matchup zone there, and maybe a sprinkle of man-to-man, just to spice things up a bit.
Yoon is in his 22nd season dialing up solutions for the Royals, longer than the other four Trinity League coaches at their respective schools combined. He also seems to squeeze more out of his teams than his counterparts, especially come playoff time.
Yoon has guided Rosary to the CIF-SS semifinals 11 times – including the last two seasons – and won a Division III-A title in 1999.
“Coach Yoon’s teams are always well-prepared and his kids always play super hard,” says Orange Lutheran coach Tom Howard. “They force you to do things that maybe you haven’t done all year, and it forces your players to read and react and improvise in the moment because they’re so good at taking away what you like to do.”
Notching victories in the ultra-talented Trinity League hasn’t been as routine for the Royals, who came into this season with an 11-61 mark since the league debuted prior to the 2006-07 season.
Yoon is keenly aware that Rosary isn’t the preferred private-school destination for top-level players in the county, which is why the Royals are often over-matched in league play by experience and depth.
For Yoon, it just makes the teaching aspect more enjoyable. “As a teacher, you’re always excited to show them new things and for them to get it for the first time,” he says.
This season has been better than most in one area and more challenging in another.
Yoon has one of his tallest teams, with 6-foot-2 Rebekah Obinma and 6-foot Nikki Miller, both power forwards, but has just seven players available and some who didn’t begin playing basketball until their freshman year.
“The games that we lost were because we’re just inexperienced,” Yoon says. “We’ve always had the teams that were smaller, kids that could shoot the ball, that can defend, but this year we’re probably as big as any other school or bigger.”
That helped the Royals win their first five games for the first time since 2009 and carry a 12-3 record into league play.
Rosary showed its toughness and versatility on defense in its second league game Jan. 14 against visiting Orange Lutheran. The Royals were outscored 15-2 in the first quarter and trailed 20-2 early in the second when they tightened the knot on the Lancers, limiting them to five points over the rest of the second quarter and all of the third before eventually losing 37-20.
Howard says the Lancers usually stick with a zone defense, but Yoon is constantly making minor tweaks to the alignment.
“That’s what makes it tough, because you think they’re doing the same thing, and for the most part they are, but they throw in enough wrinkles to where it challenges you,” he says. “You have to come up with new and creative ways as the game goes on. You can’t keep doing the same things over and over again. He’s not going to let you do that.”
Sort of like one pop quiz on the periodic table after another.