By Rick Assad
To say that Vicky Oganyan is extremely busy doesn’t entirely capture just how much the Burroughs High girls’ basketball coach is seemingly always on the run.
“It has definitely been a challenge having to teach, play college basketball, take a full-time load of classes at Glendale [Community] College and coach my own high school team,” said Oganyan, who has led the Indians to 15 CIF Southern Section appearances in 16 seasons. “However, naturally, I am a person who loves to work and love challenges.”
Oganyan, who has been coaching at Burroughs since 2004 and has seen her teams reach the quarterfinals five times, the semifinals three times and claim the Pacific League title six times including two with undefeated records, added: “When you are doing stuff you love, it is easier to push yourself and keep the drive going,” she said. “Organizing my time and just diving into the day, taking one task at a time and being in the moment has really helped me juggle everything.”
This basketball season is scheduled to begin in late February or early March because of the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak, but Oganyan is still busy, despite the snag.
“As far as our team, it [COVID-19] has hurt us when it comes to fundraising and kept us from being together and working on improving our individual skills,” she said. “Usually in the summer we play over 50 games, host numerous summer events including summer camps and use the free time away from school to bond as a team. Unfortunately this summer we have not been able to do that. We have tried to do the best we can by holding Zoom workouts to stay in shape, work on some ball handling skills and staying united as a team.”
Oganyan played point guard at Glendale High and was a two-year starter including her senior season, 1996-1997, in which she tossed in 17.7 points with 4.5 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 steals.
In time, Oganyan earned a bachelor’s degree in Health Science and then a master’s degree in Education Instruction and Curriculum from Cal State University Northridge.
A biology teacher at Burroughs, Oganyan, an assistant coach at GCC from 2016 until 2019 and an assistant under her mentor, Jerry Mike at Glendale High and later Valencia High, said she missed not playing college hoops, and that’s why she enrolled at GCC.
“I have always wanted to play college basketball,” she explained. “I didn’t get the opportunity out of high school because my parents wanted me to go straight to a four-year school. For someone with as much passion as I have for the game, there was a constant void knowing that I never got that chance.”
Oganyan continued: “Anytime I would play in pickup games or play in the Armenian Leagues in the summer, that feeling of how much I missed the team competition and being on the court,” she noted. “When I started coaching at Glendale College as an assistant coach, I would jump in some drills and I just realized that I could possibly still do this. I am definitely glad that I decided to go back and play because we all have only one life to live and we should be able to pursue our dreams and go after what we love.”
Toiling for the Vaqueros, Oganyan poured in six points, with 6.6 boards, 3.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
This past season playing hoops remains extremely vivid for Oganyan.
“Playing college basketball has been an amazing experience,” she said. “Just being part of a team that works together and goes through highs and lows together in pursuit of success is one of the most gratifying feelings.”
Oganyan was pleased that her college basketball playing journey was made to be a supportive and comfortable environment.
Head Coach Joel Weiss, Athletic Director Chris Cicuto, Sports Director Alex Leon, Dean of Student Affairs Tzoler Oukayan, her teammates, alumni, counselors, professors, students along with family and friends made Oganyan feel right at home.
The chance to come full circle was also a blessing for Oganyan.
“I don’t think I envisioned this specific path, but I do know from very early on my passion was in the game of basketball,” she said. “I loved everything about the game, from the feel of a basketball in your hand and the sound of the swish to its fast-paced action, opportunity for creativity, the physical play and toughness, the competitiveness and the ability to inspire the crowd.”
Oganyan added: “I think as I started coaching after graduating from high school, I realized that I also loved to teach and being a coach was the next best thing to playing basketball,” she said. “Teaching and coaching and having all the experiences, even the highest of highs and the lowest of lows has helped me grow as a person, as a teacher, as a coach and as a basketball player.”
What specifically does Oganyan enjoy about coaching?
“The best part of being a head coach is the opportunity you get to help young players get better, but also impact their overall lives,” she explained. “The relationships you built with each player as they go through your program, keeping in touch with them as they go through their college years and on, and when they come back to visit years later are priceless and without question the most satisfying.”
It’s not all apple pie and ice cream being a head coach. There are some dark days that everyone has to endure.
“The toughest part is dealing with the low points of the season or when you feel that you could have done more as a coach to have impacted a certain player or you could have done more as a coach to have helped the team be more successful,” she said.
Oganyan’s basic principles have worked pretty well.
“Our culture emphasizes hard work, trust, unity, mental toughness, discipline and loyalty to each other and to our school,” she said. “We just believe in buying into each other and the system and doing our best.”
Getting better is something that Oganyan looks forward to.
“Losses are definitely more important than wins when it comes to growing, whether you are a coach or a player,” she said. “Losses help you focus on your weaknesses and realize what you need to do in order to improve. They keep you from being complacent and help ignite your drive.”
Having coached several hundred games, it’s no wonder that many easily pop into Oganyan’s head.
“I think we have had many memorable wins so far in my time at Burroughs,” she said. “Our first league title in 2011, a quarterfinal win at Valley View as the underdogs in 2016. Two really memorable ones include the win in the quarterfinals at Whittier Christian this year which also qualified us for the state playoffs for the first time in school history. The plays our kids had to make down the stretch to win that game on the road in a loud gym, including role players stepping up and being clutch was awesome to see.”
Oganyan went on: “The other memorable one is the 2015 quarterfinal win at home against Peninsula. That was the first time in Burroughs history we had won a quarterfinal game and qualified for the semifinals and to do it in Division I as well as with a team that set a school record for wins at 30-3,” she said. “We had a sold out crowd with both sides of the gym packed as well as a loud and supportive student section going crazy. When the buzzer went off and the student section rushed the court and celebrated with our players at center court it was awesome to see for our players, our program, but also for the school.”