The 2014-15 season not only marked Brian Katz’s seventh year at the helm of Sacramento State basketball, but also represented arguably the greatest season in school history. Katz became the 13th men’s basketball coach in school history when he was named to the position on April 10, 2008, and the Hornets have continued to get better every year since he stepped foot on campus.
A graduate of Sacramento State and a native of Sacramento, Katz’s extensive basketball résumé includes a 39-year career as a basketball coach at the NCAA Div. I, junior college and high school levels. Two years ago, he signed a contract extension that will keep him at Sacramento State through at least the 2017-18 season.
Katz was recently named by CollegeInsider.com as the National Mid-Major Coach of the Year after having already received District 6 Coach of the Year and Big Sky Conference co-Coach of the Year honors. He became the first men’s basketball coach in Sacramento State history to receive all three of those awards. The well-deserved accolades began to trickle in after Katz led the 2014-15 Hornet squad to a 21-12 overall record, a 13-5 mark in the Big Sky Conference, the team’s first postseason appearance in the Div. I era (1991-pres.), and the team’s first postseason victory in 53 years.
The overall record marked the first time in the Div. I era that Sacramento State finished above the .500 mark, and first time since the 1988-89 season. In addition, the 21 wins were tied for second most in program history (1948-pres.), and the 13 conference victories are the most in school history (regardless of conference). All of this from a program that had entered the 2014-15 season with just three winning seasons in the previous 38 years.
After reaching the semifinal round of the Big Sky Tournament, the Hornets qualified for the CIT Postseason Tournament, marking the first time the program had qualified for a postseason event since the 1988 NCAA Div. II Tournament, and just the fifth postseason appearance in school history. Sacramento State’s 73-66 victory at Portland in the first round of the CIT marked the first time in 53 years the Hornets had won a postseason game.
The Hornets were ranked in the CollegeInsider.com Mid Major Poll for the first time in school history (ranking as high as 14th), and the team finished just one game back of first place in the Big Sky standings, narrowly missing out on the program’s first conference championship since 1977. The Hornets never lost more than two consecutive games all year and had three winning streaks of at least four games, including a seven-game winning streak which tied for the sixth longest in school history. Sacramento State also won nine straight home games at one point, and finished the year with a 13-2 home record, tied for the most home wins in program history (1948-pres.).
In fact, the team set Div. I-era school records (1991-pres.) in points scored (2,342), field goals made (841), field goal percentage (.486), 3-point field goal percentage (.408), free throw percentage (.736), assists (466) and assists per game (14.1). The Hornets finished among the top 10 teams in the nation in both 3-point field goal percentage (4th) and field goal percentage (8th) while also ranking 36th in free throw percentage. In fact, those three percentages all rank as the second best marks since Sacramento State began playing basketball in 1948.
The transformation of Sacramento State Basketball included the team selling out each of its final six home games, including a CIT second round game against Northern Arizona, in which the Hornets were hosting their first postseason game since March 10, 1962. Under Katz’s tutelage, senior guard Mikh McKinney was named honorable mention All-America, first team all-District 6, and the Big Sky MVP. McKinney became the first player in the Div. I era to receive all three of those awards, and just the third player in school history to earn All-America honors.
Remarkably, Sacramento State has improved its conference record every season of Katz’s tenure. Since taking over the program almost from scratch, beginning a major rebuilding project that saw the 2008-09 squad open the year with 12 new players and only four returners, Katz’s teams have showed steady progress. That 2008-09 squad posted just one conference win, and the steady incline began with a 3-13 conference record in 2009-10, 4-12 in 2010-11, 5-11 in 2011-12, 8-12 in 2012-13, 10-10 in 2013-14, and finally 13-5 this past season.
Not only has Katz’s teams performed well on the hardwood, the program has also excelled in the classroom where the Hornets posted a 3.15 grade point average during the 2014 fall semester, the highest cumulative gpa in school history for the men’s basketball program. Of the 21 Hornets that have expired their eligibility during Katz’s tenure, 19 have graduated. In addition, of the team’s four seniors on the 2014-15 roster, three are on pace to graduate in May of 2015, and the fourth is on pace to graduate in the fall of 2015.
The program showed signs of really taking off in 2013-14 when the Hornets not only posted a then school-record 10 conference wins, the team also clinched a Big Sky Tournament berth for the first time since 2006 and won 11 home games. One of the season’s highlights included Dylan Garrity’s 75-foot shot at the buzzer to defeat Weber State, and instantly gain national exposure for the program. Video of the shot went viral and was named the No. 1 play on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays that evening.
One of Katz’s goals when hired was to create a homecourt advantage, and, highlighted by last season’s 13-2 record at home, the Hornets are now 35-9 inside the friendly confines of the Nest over the last three years. In fact, during the 2014-15 season, the Hornets went a perfect 9-0 at home against Big Sky competition for the first time in school history.
The 2012-13 squad went 14-15 overall and 8-12 in the Big Sky while the 14 victories were the most in seven years at the time. In addition, the team’s eight conference wins had tied for the most since joining the Big Sky in 1996, until that mark was surpassed by the 2013-14 and 2014-15 squads. Nineteen of the team’s 29 games in 2012-13 were decided by single digits, the most since the 1983-84 season.
During Katz’s first four seasons (2008-12) at Sacramento State, some of the highlights included defeating Oregon State on Nov. 21, 2009, which ended a 39-game road losing streak that Katz inherited. In addition, that win was the first against a Pacific-12 Conference opponent since Dec. 17, 1953. Three years later, the Hornets would add another Pac-12 victory when the team knocked off Utah on the road (74-71) on Nov. 16, 2012.
Prior to Sacramento State, Katz spent 19 years as a junior college head coach, compiling a 435-185 record (.702 winning percentage) while leading his teams to the playoffs 18 times, including three Sweet 16 appearances, three Elite 8 appearances and one trip to the Final Four. Also during that 19-year span, his teams combined for seven conference championships and he received conference coach of the year accolades seven times. For his efforts, Katz was inducted into the California Community College Men’s Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame on March 13, 2009.
He spent 15 seasons (1993-08) as head coach at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, where he posted a 348-138 record (.716 winning percentage) and led the team to 14 playoff appearances, six conference championships, two Elite Eight appearances and one Final Four.
A six-time conference coach of the year at Delta College, Katz guided the team to three league championships and a 130-32 combined record during his final five years with the program.
Katz had just one losing season during his tenure at Delta, and that came in his first season (1993-94) when the team posted a 10-19 overall record. However, the very next year (1994-95), the Mustangs more than doubled their win total and finished with a 21-11 mark. From that point on, Delta became one of the top junior college programs in the state, winning at least 22 games 11 times during Katz’s final 13 seasons at the helm. The high point came in 2004-05, when the team finished the year 30-2 overall, 14-0 in league and reached the Final Four before falling to San Bernardino Valley College, 85-84, in double overtime.
Prior to his tenure at Delta College, Katz spent four years (1989-93) at Lassen College in Susanville, Calif., where he led the team to an 87-47 record, four playoff appearances and a league championship. One of those playoff appearances came in 1992 when he guided the team to the Elite Eight despite the school having just 800 students.
In addition, during Katz’s junior college head coaching tenure, of the 115 players that finished their sophomore years under his tutelage, 109 of them advanced to four-year institutions – 66 on scholarships.
Before entering the junior college head coaching ranks, Katz was an assistant under Carroll Williams at Santa Clara where the team combined for a 40-22 overall record and reached the National Invitational Tournament both seasons during his two-year stay (1987-89).
Previous to his stint with Santa Clara, Katz was the head coach at Antelope’s Center High School (1983-87) where he led the team to a four-year combined record of 72-42, including three Sac-Joaquin Section playoff appearances, one league championship and a season-ending No. 1 ranking among all schools (big or small) in the Sacramento area. Katz was the first head men’s basketball coach in Center High School history, which had an enrollment of just 273 students at the time.
Katz earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Sacramento State in 1980, and his master’s degree in counseling psychology from Santa Clara in 1989.
Katz and his wife, Lori, have five children – Katie (26), Vinny (25), Megan (24), Steven (23) and Jimmy (18).