For more than a decade, you always knew when things were getting dicey in a Sonoma Valley girls basketball game. It was measured by the arc of Sil Coccia’s suit jacket.
Coccia, who took over the Dragons varsity squad in 2005, was a coach who liked to dress professionally for games: slacks, shiny shoes, coat, tie, collared shirt. But at some point in just about every game, whether the spark was a questionable foul call or a bit of sloppy ball handling, Coccia would rise to his feet, remove his coat and toss it behind him.
“My senior year, there were two guys that actually wore sports jackets to our games,” said Sarah Semenero, who joined the Sonoma Valley varsity program the same year as Coccia and graduated in 2008. “As soon as Sil took off his coat, they’d rip off theirs and throw them into the bleachers. They’d do exactly the same thing. And people would go crazy. It was never on after the first quarter unless it was a blowout. And maybe not even then.”
Coatless, Coccia would get serious about fixing whatever was going wrong.
That ritual effectively came to an end on Feb. 26, in the moments after Sonoma Valley lost to Campolindo in a North Coast Section Division 3 semifinal playoff game. Coccia let his assistants dissect the game, then announced to his girls that he was retiring after 11 seasons, 163 victories, three Sonoma County League championships, eight NCS postseason appearances and two SCL Coach of the Year awards.
Coccia is also retiring from his longtime position as a coach with the NorCal Academy.
“It’s not cold turkey, but it’s damn close to it,” he said. “I’m at peace with it, though. It’s almost like when I announced it to the girls after our last game. There was shock, and there were tears. But I didn’t shed any, because I’d already worked through it.”
What made Coccia’s decision easier is the vigor of the program he’s leaving behind. The Dragons were league co-champions along with Analy in 2015-16, a year after winning the title outright. Both of those Coccia-coached squads went 11-1 in the SCL. Sonoma Valley has just four girls returning next year, but three of them are among the team’s top seven scorers.
“We managed to have some success these last few years,” Coccia said. “I feel like Peyton Manning. I was watching him at his retirement press conference. Why not go out on top? It would be one thing if I knew the bottom was falling out next year. It’s not. The program is in really good shape.”
Sonoma Valley High athletic director Robert Midgley said the school is in the process of hiring a new coach.
Coccia’s reason for stepping away from coaching is a common one. There just wasn’t enough of him to go around. He became manager of retail sales at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery in June. It’s located in Dry Creek Valley near Healdsburg, which put Coccia on the road for at least a couple hours a day.
“It’s a time-consuming job,” Coccia said. “It’s retail, so weekends are not Saturday-Sunday for me necessarily. That’s a juggling challenge for me. So it’s a combination of factors. It’s the job, it’s the commute, it’s the time constraints.”