After a 34-year career that included basketball coaching positions at the high school, community college and university levels, Mark Arce announced his plans to step away from the sport this spring. He will remain as a full-time faculty member at West Hills College Coalinga, teaching health and physical education courses.
“There were many factors that went into this decision,” said Arce.
“For personal and family reasons, I need to look after my own health and well-being – but also, this is the best time for my wife, Sharon, and I to spend more quality time following our three children in their college and professional careers. It’s been a wonderful run in the coaching profession, including 17 great seasons as West Hills Falcons head coach. The program is in good shape to move forward and transition with a new direction.”
The WHCC athletic department has opened the search for an interim adjunct head coach, with the application deadline closing on July 3. Associate Dean of Athletics Eric Mendoza and three current assistant coaches are expecting as many as 12 returning basketball student-athletes and at least 10 newcomers to start the 2018-19 academic year.
“It was important to Mark that he left the program in great shape for the next coach,” said Mendoza.
“The next coach will inherit a full roster, a completed season schedule and a healthy fundraising account. Mark was always great about the details and wants the new coach to be successful. While we will miss Mark’s leadership with our basketball program, we are glad he will remain as an instructor. He is excited about contributing more to our academic division, and our campus will benefit from his increased involvement with committees and initiatives.”
Arce, 59, ends his coaching career with 367 victories at the California community college level, ranking among the all-time leaders. He is one of two head coaches in state history to reach the Elite Eight with schools from each region.
“I’m proud that we were able to create a basketball program at West Hills College Coalinga that the community supports and one that is respected statewide,” said Arce, the school’s all-time winningest coach.
“There are many people who deserve credit for helping us reach high levels of success. Perhaps too many people to name, but they were all instrumental in creating a great community college basketball program.”
Arce was named head basketball coach at WHCC in 2001. He also served as counselor and interim athletic director at the college over the years.
In 17 seasons, Arce guided the Falcons to 260 victories and 11 California Community College Athletic Association postseason appearances – including this past season, when the Falcons won an opening round playoff game at Monterey Peninsula College before losing to eventual state-champion City College of San Francisco.
Arce was voted Central Valley Conference Coach of the Year twice after the 2006-07 and 2015-16 seasons.
“Mark is a great person, an outstanding coach and a surefire basketball coaches association hall of famer,” said College of the Sequoias head coach Rusty Smith, who has coached against Arce since the mid-1980s.
“It didn’t matter if West Hills had great or average talent, when a team went into battle with them, they better be prepared to compete or they were in for a rude awakening. Mark’s teams were always ready to get after it! Every year the games between COS and West Hills were instant classics, generally going down to the last possession. I am sad to see Mark retire. Our association has lost a high quality person and coach. We wish him all the best during the next chapter of his career.”
Arce’s 2006-07 team advanced the CCCAA Elite Eight and finished with a 27-11 record. As the No. 5 seed, the Falcons – led by All-State guard Brandon Brown – upset state-power City College of San Francisco and reached the state championship weekend in Fresno. The team also featured current WHCC assistant coach Adedokun Olanrewaju.
Last October, the 2006-07 team enjoyed a reunion in Coalinga, during its induction into the WHCC Athletic Hall of Fame.
“Coach was very demanding on the court, but genuinely cared about his players," said Olanrewaju.
"He allowed freedom, where talented players could shine, but he also wanted structure to always play team basketball and play hard. He was accessible to everyone off the court and was willing to help students, other coaches, and people in town. I feel fortunate to have played for him, coached alongside him, and call him a good friend.”
During the 2007-08 season, WHCC had another All-State guard in JC Snead – and the team returned to the state playoffs, finishing 19-16.
In 2004-05, when the school posted an 18-9 record, center Marvin Moss was voted All-State. That team also featured David Lainhart, who was selected CCCAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year and the National Scholar-Athlete of the Year runner-up. Lainhart was a 2016 WHCC Hall of Fame inductee.
Part of Arce’s legacy at WHCC includes producing numerous student-athletes who went on to graduate and transfer to four-year universities across the country – including many successful business leaders and educators. Several of his former players and assistant coaches have become head coaches at the high school and collegiate levels.
Arce was also involved with campus and local community outreach. In addition to hosting free youth basketball camps each season, he helped with coordinating annual Thanksgiving Day meals for WHCC students in the residence halls. Over the years, his basketball teams volunteered countless hours with a variety of city events and activities.
From 1992-1998, Arce was the head coach at Bakersfield College, compiling a record of 107-88. In those six seasons, he led the Renegades to five postseason berths. In his last season at BC, the team went 32-4 and reached the state championship final.
That led Arce to serving as assistant coach at Utah State University for two seasons (1999-2001). During his time with Utah State, the Aggies were 56-12 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
Arce served as an executive board member of the California Community College Men’s Basketball Association, playoff seeding representative for the Central Valley Conference, and long-time member of the National Basketball Coaches Association.
"Coach Arce is well-respected in the profession and is the epitome of a player's coach," said Rob Haynes, Porterville College head coach and CVC rival since 2013.
"It's a challenge to build chemistry with players from different places and you could tell his teams were prepared and on the same page. He was always open to helping younger coaches like myself. I appreciate that he sat with me before our games, asked how I was doing, and offered me advice. You don't get that with every coach and I will miss that part in coaching against West Hills."
A 1983 graduate of Oklahoma State University, Arce began his coaching career in 1984 at Stillwater High School before moving on to Blackwell (OK) High School in 1985-86.
He then entered the college ranks, becoming an assistant at Columbia (CA) Junior College in 1987 and Cal State Bakersfield from 1988-92. The Cal State Bakersfield teams advanced to the NCAA Division II playoffs all five years and reached the National Championship game in 1990.
Arce played basketball in Oklahoma at Moore High School and St. Gregory Junior College. He was born in Long Beach, California on May 25, 1959.
He and his wife, Sharon, reside in Coalinga and have three children, Brett, Meagan, and Troy.
Meagan recently accepted a position as marketing director for Duke University women’s basketball team. Brett is entering his third season on the USC Trojans football team staff as a defensive analyst.
Troy is preparing for his senior season as a point guard at Linfield College in Oregon. Last season, he started all 25 games and led the team in assists, as the Wildcats advanced to the Northwest Conference playoffs.
Both Brett and Troy played basketball for their father at WHCC, and graduated with degrees before transferring to universities; and Meagan was the team’s administrative assistant.
West Hills Community College District Chancellor Dr. Stu Van Horn said Arce’s impact reaches beyond the Falcons basketball program.
“Mark’s legacy is a testimonial to any educator of the importance of being comfortable in their own shoes at our level,” said Van Horn.
“He thrived at the college and was part of the fabric that makes Coalinga such a special place. He has been guided by an aspirational philosophy of teaching and life, and his family has been incredible contributors to the college community. He believed in our college, our community, and our students.
“While I am grateful he will continue his teaching duties, his retirement from coaching will take me some time to overcome. His coaching philosophy was a perfect fit with my values and I will miss watching him coach our student-athletes who use athletics as a springboard to overcome barriers and reach their attainment goals. I know he will remain involved and do more than most others to continue the trajectory of the program he built that has benefitted so many student-athletes over the years.”
ARCE'S COACHING FILE
-Assistant, Stillwater (Okla.) HS, 1984
-Assistant, Blackwell (Okla.) HS, 1985-86
-Assistant, Columbia (Calif.) Junior College, 1987
-Assistant, Cal State Bakersfield, 1988-92
-Head Coach, Bakersfield (Calif.) Junior College, 1992-1998
-Assistant, Utah State, 1999-2001
-Head Coach, West Hills (Calif.) Community College, 2001-2018
-Moore (Okla.) HS, 1978
-Oklahoma State, 1983 (BA in Special Education)
-Cal State Bakersfield, 1993 (MA in Student Personnel and Guidance Counseling)