Eleven-year varsity basketball coach makes team his family

For 11-years, varsity basketball coach Steve Compagno has been a notable staple in the athletic community at Redwood. Watching Compagno passionately strut up and down the court, giving his players directions and shouting encouragements is part of the experience of attending a basketball game at Redwood. Much of his fervor stems from the deep connection he feels to the Redwood community as a whole.

“Redwood has always been part of my life. My dad taught here, and I was the ball boy when I was eight through 12-years-old,” Compagno said. “I wanted to come in and make the program something the kids were proud of, the school was proud of and really focus on relationships and the character they display.”

Compagno’s connection with Redwood goes further than his own attendance as a student when he was in high school. Two of his own children have attended Redwood, and another is currently a student here, which made being the head basketball coach an experience to share with his kids.

“I got the privilege to coach my own son, Joe. It was really special, and I learned a lot [from] coaching him,” Compagno said. “Our relationship was dad at home and coach in the gym, and neither one of those filtered into the other side. We always kept it separate, which was great for our family.”

Despite there being some minor generational differences in the behavior of players Compagno has seen come through the program, the core values he fosters in his team have always stayed the same.

Photo by Karl Somerville
Hyping up his team at half-time, Compagno delivers a passionate talk to his players.

“The basic fundamentals of the program are love your teammates [and] respect your coaches. Your attitude and effort are the only things you can ever control, and they are always your decision,” Compagno said. “That’s a requirement here. Execution is a bonus.”

According to senior Brandon Radu, creating an environment that emphasizes the importance of mutual respect and dedication is a large contributing factor in why the players enjoy playing for Compagno.

“He gives us a big voice, so if we ever disagree on anything, or ever have any suggestions, he wants us to speak up. He wants to listen to us. So when it comes to our attitude and effort, you want to give it because you know it’s also for yourself because you have a say in how things are going,” Radu said.

Because he has been a fixture in the basketball program for so many years, Compagno has developed meaningful connections with his players as people, not just as athletes. This adds to the team chemistry and the overall effectiveness of Compagno’s coaching; he and his players are a family. Despite having coached for so many years, Compagno never fails to find new ways to keep the team’s energy high.

“He’s very good at getting us mentally prepared. I’ve never had a coach who was as good at firing his guys up and putting them in the game mindset,” Radu said. “A lot of coaches I’ve had in the past haven’t had much to say pre-game, aside from the cliche, basic stuff, but every game he’s always got something new for us to get us going.”

Senior Chance Farrell-Martin believes that the relationship he and his teammates have with Compagno goes beyond just playing basketball in the gym. He said that Compagno acts as a mentor for many of the players and is available for help both on and off the court.

“He’s a real family guy—it must be in his blood—and it really rubs off on us. He reminds us every weekend that we can always call him,” Farrell-Martin said.

Photo by Julia Scharf
Coaching from the sidelines, Compagno directs his players throughout their game.

The way Compagno sees it, to properly function as a family and a team, there must be a healthy level of mutual respect, genuine love and compassion for one another.

“We have a really tight-knit group, and the guys really care about each other, and I think that’s really important,” Compagno said. “We talk about family, because this is their basketball family, and we’re going to have disagreements and arguments, and we’re not always going to be on the same page, but communication is vital, and I do communicate with them and tell them the truth.”

At the end of the day, when the game is over and the stands are empty, it’s family and comradery that matter most to Compagno, and which guides his team through all of their success.