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Change is coming to the West Valley League. Her name is Shawn Kolani.
Kolani, a 2012 graduate of Taft High, was hired Wednesday to be the new boys basketball head coach at El Camino Real Charter. She’s the sister of former Taft basketball star Jordan Farmar, who went on to play for UCLA and win an NBA championship with the Lakers.
Kolani is the first female to serve as the head coach of a varsity boys basketball team in the West Valley League. She is the third female head coach for boys basketball in the Los Angeles City Section, joining Roybal’s Brooke Kalama and Sherman Oaks CES ‘Jennifer Crockett.
“It’s special to me,” Kolani said of the historical hire. “I grew up in the Valley and now I’m making an impact, breaking barriers. It’s a special moment that I hope will kick-start more women to coach boys basketball. “
Kolani, 28, is aware of the challenges that are ahead. She replaces Joe Wyatt, who was at school for 15 years and the boys basketball coach for the last eight. Wyatt was fired this past season, which left many players and parents disgruntled.
The school’s athletic director, Richard Yi, has been on administrative leave and away from campus since March. It’s not an ideal situation to step into, but Kolani isn’t concerned.
“I’m going to be patient and understand how (players and parents) feel,” she said. “Change is hard, especially for kids.”
Kolani’s bigger challenge than winning over the student-athletes might be winning over the parents. Many of them didn’t like the way the school handled Wyatt’s dismissal.
“Parents have to be included in the process. That’s my intention when it comes to creating a structure and setting expectations, “Kolani said. “I want to make sure everyone is on the same page.”
Kolani, once a great player herself, has been coaching since her playing days ended. She has her own basketball training business called Keep Shooting that focuses on player development, film breakdown and consulting.
She worked for the Lakers during the 2016-17 season as a coaching associate before becoming an assistant at Taft under boys basketball coach Derrick Taylor during the 2017-18 season.
Most recently, Kolani was the head coach of the boys basketball team at Glendale Adventist this past season. The Cougars went 7-7.
There’s another challenge Kolani is aware of, and it might be the biggest of them all as she enters a highly competitive league: the doubt.
“I have to stay confident. I understand there will be skepticism with me being a young, female coach, ”she said.
Colin Jamerson, who previously was the boys basketball coach at Reseda High, will be one of Kolani’s assistant coaches, which might help lessen the learning curve Kolani is sure to experience.
Kolani also anticipates Farmer being a phone call away when she needs advice, and maybe, dropping by for a few practices and games.
“It would not be silly to pick his brain on things,” Kolani said of Farmer. “I’ll be using him as a resource.”