New Lathrop boys coach Charles Roth has a passion for basketball, so much so that he took up officiating this past winter.
“At that point, there were no other coaching positions available for me to apply,” Roth said. “What better way to stay in the game than to do officiating?”
While he appreciates the experience, Roth is happy to take on a more familiar role on the sidelines once again. The 47-year-old Patterson resident is back at Lathrop where he previously served as junior varsity coach for three seasons under Bill Slikker.
Roth is the fifth head coach in Lathrop's program history, following Craig Ward who guided the Spartans to a 62-47 record and three Sac-Joaquin Section postseason appearances in four years.
Roth said he applied for openings at four other schools in the area but could not pass up the opportunity to return to Lathrop. Although the athletes and administration have changed, he came away impressed after meeting with Principal Greg Leland and Athletic Director Chuck Selna. He did recognize one familiar face — Dwayne Davis, currently Lathrop's girls basketball coach who was also an assistant during the Slikker era.
“Knowing him and having a conversation with him really just put everything into perspective,” Roth said. “It just felt like a good situation on both sides.”
Roth moved to Patterson from Lathrop during his time with the Spartans, and from there became head coach at Orestimba. Despite building a contender at the Newman school, Roth was replaced by a teacher who was interested in coaching the team — on-campus employees typically get priority for coaching positions.
In the last year, he accepted head coaching jobs for the West High girls and boys programs in Tracy but was again bumped in favor of campus employees. Roth hopes he has found a more permanent basketball home at Lathrop.
“I would have been at Orestimba until I finished coaching, but that those situations are out of my hands,” he said. “I hope to continue coaching for a longtime, and I hope it'll be for one school.”
A 1991 graduate of Livermore High, Roth started coaching in 2001 at the youth levels with Catholic Youth Organization and Amateur Athletic Union programs. He got to coach the freshman team at his alma mater for two years before joining the Army.
Following his eight-year stint in the military, Roth joined Slikker's staff at Lathrop in the 2010-11 season and eventually landed the varsity position at Orestimba.
Roth inherited a team that went 6-21 in 2012-13 while struggling to compete in the Trans-Valley League at time when parochial power Modesto Christian reigned the small-school conference. He laid the foundation during a 7-17 first season with the Warriors, whose rise in subsequent seasons coincided with the school's move to the Southern Athletic League.
It was in the 2016-17 season that it all came together for Roth and Orestimba, which captured the SAL title while finishing with a 21-7 record.
“When I first accepted the varsity position over there they were in a tough league with Modesto Christian, and the first two years was very difficult,” Roth said. “What that did was build me up to become a better coach.
“Then the leagues were realigned, and by that time we had two years of building and it started at the freshman level. I implemented things I wanted in the program as a whole. It doesn't happen overnight, it's a process of putting in your own systems and philosophies. By the third year those freshmen were now juniors and they bought in. We made the playoffs that year, and they won league as seniors.”
Now, he steps into an entirely different situation. Though Lathrop is still in search for its first league championship, the Spartans have been competitive over the years and return established standouts. Among them are All-Western Athletic Conference first-team selections Eddie Cotton and Daniel Whaley and second-team selection CJ Ward.
Roth has already reviewed game film on his new team as well as the competition in the WAC. He added Mike Eddens and Vinny Devencenzi remain as the freshman and JV coaches, respectively. The three coaches have conversed over Zoom meetings, and the head coach has sent video messages to the players.
“We're excited,” Roth said. “Everyone is looking forward to a fresh start.”