Jose Hernandez said the Burbank High boys' basketball program "was my heart and soul or the past nine years."
However, without a guaranteed teaching position in the district, the coach said he had to do what was right for his family, and that meant leaving Burbank for a position elsewhere
Hernandez, who coached the Bulldogs for nine seasons, said he stepped down last week to take a position at Corona High, where he will teach and be the school's girls' varsity basketball coach.
"It was a tough decision, and it was wasn't really something I expected to do," Hernandez said. "But I had to do what was best for my family. Burbank wasn't going to give me that opportunity, so it was a move I had to make for my family."
Burbank Principal Hani Youssef said although the school is sad to see Hernandez go, he understands what facilitated the move.
"We didn't have a teaching position for him in the district. …He applied at some other districts and the [Corona-Norco Unified School District] picked him up," Burbank Principal Hani Youssef said. "It's a great move for him."
Hernandez was hired in June 2003 and replaced David Goosen, who was fired in January of that year for alleged CIF Southern Section and district rules violations.
The coach inherited a team that went 0-23 during the 2002-03 season and didn't win a game in the Foothill League (0-10). Over the course of the next seven seasons, the Bulldogs improved on their league victories every year, jumping from the Foothill League to the Pacific League in 2006.
Hernandez finished his tenure at Burbank with a 120-114 record and a 52-60 league tally. In addition, his teams qualified for the postseason seven times in nine seasons and the Bulldogs had two second-place league finishes (2008-09, 2009-10) and five winning seasons.
Under Hernandez, Burbank's most successful season came during the 2009-10 campaign. After finishing second in the Pacific League, the Bulldogs (23-9, 10-4 in league) marched to the CIF Southern Section II-AA semifinals, where the No. 11-seeded squad fell to Compton, 71-48.
It was the first time Burbank advanced to the CIF semifinals in 43 years. It was also Hernandez' only 20-win season.
Last season, the Bulldogs went 12-16 and 8-6 to tie for third in the Pacific League. Burbank fell in the opening round of the Division I-A playoffs to Chino Hills, 57-45.
Two of Hernandez' most memorable wins in league came against powerhouse Pasadena, as Burbank earned a 61-44 victory in 2008 and a 59-56 triumph in 2010.
"Success can obviously be measured by the wins and losses and what we were able to accomplish on the court," Hernandez said. "But what is more important to me is the relationships I was able to develop over the years. The return visits by the former players and the text messages and the calls on a weekly basis is what meant the most to me.
"When we took over the program it was pretty bad. But I think that we got to the point where our program became well-respected and we created an image that we could be proud of."
Youssef said Hernandez brought stability to a program that hit hard times prior to his arrival.
"We were competitive and he brought some structure to the team," he said. "We're obviously going to miss him, but this is a great move for him, his wife and his kids. Because he will be teaching, he will have some stability that he didn't have with us, and you can't pass that up."
Rumors had been swirling regarding the coach's departure, as prior to Hernandez' leaving, Youssef said there was a minor incident that was investigated by the school involving an assistant coach and some players. Although Youssef would not provide any details about the incident, he did say that Hernandez was not involved and the assistant coach was subsequently fired.
"It was an assistant, not the head coach who was directly involved," Youssef said. "[Hernandez] wasn't even there."
Before coming to Burbank, Hernandez served as an assistant at Simi Valley when it advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA final in 1999.
As a player, he was a talented point guard at Dos Pueblos. He was a starting player on the 1992 Chargers team that won a CIF 3-A championship. Under Coach Eric Burkhardt, Dos Pueblos defeated Corona del Mar, 39-38, in overtime to win the title.
In college, Hernandez played at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo before transferring to Santa Barbara City College. He went on to Cal State Northridge, where he didn't play, but he received a bachelor's degree in history.
Hernandez will take over a Corona girls' program that struggled last season. The Panthers were 9-17 and finished last in the highly competitive Big VIII League (2-12).
"It's going to be a different experience for me because I've never coached a girls' team before," Hernandez said. "But I'm looking forward to the challenge, and hopefully we can build a program like we did with the Burbank boys."
In the wake of Hernandez's departure, Youssef said the school is moving forward with filling the vacant position.
"We are currently flying the position and we are actively looking for a new coach," he said.