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SFSU loses hoops coach to housing crisis

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Paul Trevor is leaving San Francisco State for a conference rival in search of a more affordable place to live. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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It is not an overstatement to say Paul Trevor is the best head coach in the history of the San Francisco State University men’s basketball program.

During the 2016-17 season, Trevor became the fastest head coach to reach 100 wins with the team while leading it to its best record in the modern era as the Gators logged their most wins (25) since the Great Depression.

But SFSU couldn’t keep Trevor from leaving for Stanislaus State, a fellow California Collegiate Athletic Association school.

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The reason for Trevor’s departure: housing prices in the Bay Area.

“[SFSU] just couldn’t come up with the stability I was looking for,” he told me in a phone interview on Friday. “I was looking for a place where I could dig in and build a program and I didn’t know — with the cost of living in the Bay Area — if I could do that.”

Trevor spent seven years at the helm of the men’s basketball program at SFSU. During that span, he saw the athletic department invest thousands more dollars in his team beginning in 2014 — the same year the school announced a new mascot and “new momentum at the athletics department.” 

“There is a fantastic new energy in the Athletics Department, and I am very excited about the new direction in which our sports programs are headed,” said President Les Wong in a statement at the time. “The new mascot design reflects that new energy, builds on our recent momentum and serves as a reminder that the Gators are a force to be reckoned with.”

But the California State University system doesn’t adjust for cost of living in its salary structure. So, a head basketball coach with Trevor’s experience would make the same amount whether he was working in The City or the Central Valley.

Trevor’s departure exposes a fundamental problem the school is going to have to reconcile if it hopes to thrive at the Division II level, which is exactly what athletic director Charles Guthrie covets. 

How do you compete as a second-tier college team in an area that is among the most expensive in the country and that is obsessed with professional sports?

Trevor did his best, commuting 30 miles each way from Novato during his tenure. But when you have a 7-year-old daughter and value family the way he does, spending hours in your car every day is no way to live.

So, Guthrie will cast a wide net as he searches for Trevor’s replacement. Guthrie told me he’s considering up-and-coming coaches as well as veterans looking to make a difference at a higher level.

“You might not be able to afford a million-dollar home,” he said in a phone interview, “but we’ll give you a million-dollar opportunity.”

In the meantime, Vince Inglima — Trevor’s “right-hand man” — will run the program. Inglima will be the interim head coach through the 2017-18 season, after which Guthrie will launch his official search.

Inglima will get a fair shot to prove himself, too, as four of SFSU’s starters will be back next season. That continuity will be valuable for a program looking to establish itself as one of the best at the D-II level.

But Guthrie knows his job will include a fair amount of turnover and flux, because that’s the hand he’s been dealt as the leader of a program based in the Bay Area.

“We think it’s going to be attractive for coaches coming in, wanting to make their names and competing with the resources we have,” he said.

Guthrie is maintaining his enthusiasm, despite the fact that his biggest challenge -— affordability — is completely out of his control.

He’ll need it.

Contact Jacob C. Palmer at jpalmer@sfexaminer.com or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.

S.F. Examiner Staff Writer Michael Barba contributed to this report.

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