Half of water polo coaching tandem accepts job at Gunn

Parker Devine and Frankie Comey

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Palo Alto High School men’s water polo coach Matthew Johnson will be leaving Paly for the head-coaching job at Gunn High School next season. Gunn’s old coach reportedly stepped down to return to school, leaving the position open.

Johnson, who joined the coaching staff last season, coached Paly boys water polo to an appearance in the Central Coast Section semi-finals. Johnson coached alongside co-head coach and twin brother Brandon Johnson.

“I was confused and surprised,” said junior player Omri Newman. “I didn’t expect him to leave.”

It was reportedly the goals of both Matthew and Brandon Johnson to coach their own teams.

“It has always been a dream of both of theirs to coach their own teams,” said Gunn player Lauren Johnson. “This was the first opportunity for that”.

Despite different high schools, the coaches will continue coaching club water polo, which many Paly water polo players participate in. Because of this, the new coaching position opens a new chapter in the Paly-Gunn rivalry. Many Paly players will practice with Gunn players in club practice while they will compete in high school.

“The coaching change will make the Paly-Gunn rivalry more competitive and more fun” said junior JJ Kadifa. “It won’t change my preparation much. It will be just as fun competitive and practicing with Gunn”.

Johnson, a junior at Gunn High School and younger sister of the two coaches, gave her take on the recent changes.

“Both of them wanted to stay in Palo Alto because they want to continue to expand their Shoreline Water Polo Program together.” Both brothers are very active in the Palo Alto water polo coaching community, having coached before at clubs locally, in Southern California, and even was part of the coaching staff at UC Irvine.

While the brothers have coached together for a long time, it’s failed to stoke the competitive nature that runs deep. “Everything is a competition between [my brothers],” said Johnson. “They are already super stoked for the Paly-Gunn game and they won’t stop talking about it!”

It’s the end of a coaching era without a doubt, as the brothers have enjoyed great success together. “They will miss coaching alongside each other because despite their competitive nature, they’re still the best of friends. They talked about their team’s plays and strategies all the time. It really was their team.”