Basketball Compton

Basketball Coach Tony Thomas Leaves Compton After 16 Seasons, Hired at Rancho Dominguez Prep

One of Compton High’s best coaches of the last half-century has left the school after a highly-successful 16-year tenure, citing the difficulties of the longterm campus construction as well as frustrations with administration. Longtime basketball coach Tony Thomas won a CIF-SS championship at Compton, as well as the school’s only Moore League titles in the last 30 years.

“It’s been very difficult to keep going,” said Thomas. “Since they tore the school down, and with (longtime Compton athletic director) Ms. Kemp passing–it’s time for me to go. Aside from all the other stuff.”

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Thomas also confirmed he is not leaving coaching, and has been hired as the new boys’ basketball at Rancho Dominguez Prep in Long Beach.

Thomas led Compton to Moore League boys’ basketball titles in 2006-07, 07-08, 15-16, and 20-21, as well as a CIF-SS championship in 2015, which was their first title in the sport since 1969. He also coached DeMar DeRozan, who starred at Compton and USC before embarking on a long, successful NBA career.

The last Moore League title at Compton High won by a coach besides Thomas was the school’s boys’ soccer team in 1992-93. Thomas seemed like a probable Compton lifer, between his historic success at the school and his family ties. His father Eddie Thomas was an assistant coach on the Compton basketball CIF-SS championship teams of the 60s, and was head coach of the team from 1972 until his passing in 1987. The school named its gym after Thomas, who was also the first Black coach of the program.

But Tony Thomas said he’s felt for a few years that his departure was inevitable.

“We’ve been out of Compton High for construction for two years, and I’ve had five home games out of 24 Moore League games in that time,” he said. “It’s COVID, I’m more exposed than anyone, I’ve got kids on a school bus to every game. The lack of support for these kids, the lack of growth around us--it was just time.”

Other frustrations of Thomas’ included what he felt was an uninvolved administration during the COVID-19 pandemic, when multiple alums or players in his program were shot to death. 

“We had young kids getting killed and no one helping,” he said. “Everyone was just worried about following the rules instead of helping kids.”

Thomas’ new job at Rancho Dominguez Prep will let him continue coaching and helping kids locally, but with what he says will be a more helpful administration.

“If you look at the name, that’s a Compton name, that’s still home to me,” he asid. “It’s in Long Beach, it’s across from Carson, it’s a hop from Compton. We’ve got brand new facilities, a gym, a weight room, a film room--we haven’t had any of that. We were watching film in middle school auditoriums.”

RDP is in Long Beach but is an LAUSD school that competes in the LA City Section, not the CIF Southern Section. Thomas said he’s excited to turn the page and start a new chapter of his career.

“I felt like all I’ve done the last couple of years is complain, and that’s really not me,” he said. “I’m not one of those guys--I want to be excited about what I’m doing, and I am again.”

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.
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