But the only thing of note in the basketball record books came way back in 1961 when future Hall of Famer Gail Goodrich played through a broken ankle in the championship game to lead the Parrots to a City title. “I never expected anything like this,” senior guard Andy Guerra said. “My older brother played here and won the Invitational title. “We didn’t even know there was a City title.” The big game every year was the Sunset Six game against neighborhood rival North Hollywood. “Basically, there were no expectations,” Katz said. “I could go 0-24, but if the kids played hard and didn’t get in trouble, I’d still have a job.” That’s about what happened in Katz’s first two seasons. Poly went 5-15 in league play and 16-32 overall. “But I wasn’t satisfied with 16-32,” he said. “I wanted to build something.” For this to work, Katz thought, basketball couldn’t just be an after-school activity, it had to be a lifestyle. Weightlifting, academic counseling, summer ball, fund raising and all the stuff the big-boy programs do. Every summer, the team would pitch tables outside the school and sell lemonade. Katz hit up the faculty to buy basketball T-shirts and sweaters. He started running promotions at games to draw fan support. “I gave away yearbooks, tickets to prom, whatever I could to get people to come out,” he said. The real heavy lifting though, was in turning athletes into basketball players. Starting forward Santiago Moreno showed up as a freshman wanting to play football. His basketball experience consisted of a few pick-up games in middle school. But he was 6-foot-3 – taller than all but one player on the team – so he went straight to varsity. “They’d say, `Run to the baseline,’ and I was like, `Which line is that?”‘ Moreno said. “I didn’t know anything. I spent that whole freshman year figuring out the game. “The first day of practice, they asked if I could dunk. I just grabbed the ball and did it. I didn’t realize that was a big deal. But only one other guy on the team could dunk at the time.” Then there was the challenge of accommodating kids with financial or family pressures. Last season, one of Poly’s top players was Ever Lopez. At one point, Lopez had to drop out of high school to get a job to help out his family. Katz tracked him down, talked him into coming back to school, then appealed to the City Section to get Lopez a fifth year of eligibility. Lopez is now playing basketball at Pierce College. “A lot of these kids have a lot more than basketball to worry about,” Katz said. “But that’s what I’m most proud of. Because we were able to create a program that was more than just basketball and school. I wanted to create a family atmosphere. “Last year, we went on one of our trips and a kid said to me that it was his first time ever staying in a hotel.” At first sight, Katz seems an odd choice for the leader of this team. He’s a white, 6-foot-10 guy with a shaved head coaching at a school that’s more than 90 percent Hispanic. But the more you watch him interact with the team, the more you realize he’s just a big kid. “Brad’s put his heart and soul into the program. He lives for basketball and he lives for the kids,” Schwal said. “It’s been a beautiful thing to watch them this year. I went to as many games as I could because a team like that doesn’t come around here that often. It was special.” A few years ago, Katz realized that this group of players was going to be special when they got to be seniors, so he put them out there as sophomores and let them gain experience. The rest of the school seemed to sense it too. Industrial technology teacher Glen Lamos was all smiles Friday afternoon when asked about the team’s playoff run. “We’ve had good teams here before, but there was something special about this team,” Lamos said. “It was an amazing run. The alumni showed up, the community showed up. We always talk about Poly being a community school and this showed that it really is. “The football team was at their games. The girls’ soccer and girls’ basketball teams were there. There was a real camaraderie there. “It was fun. And it made a difference. All that hard work they put in really made a difference. You want to sell your school to the parents in the neighborhood. The more kids see success like this, the more they want to be a part of it. Maybe in a few years, we’ll be up there with Taft’s in the Valley. You never know. It just takes one ball to start rolling. This one happened to be a basketball.” Poly has got at least one more game this year. They’ll play in the state championship tournament beginning March 6. Already, people around campus are asking the team about going to the game. Nobody is quite ready to talk about next year yet. No hurry. The glow from this year’s run is going to last for very long time. [email protected] (818) 713-3617 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Along the way, the Parrots pulled in busloads of fans. Two buses full made the trek down to Westchester on Thursday night and packed the visiting stands. Home games at Poly were packed all season long. Star point guard DJ Gay and his distinctive mohawk became so popular in the community, he started getting recognized at the supermarket. “I think the guy recognized me because of my hair,” Gay joked. “But that was pretty cool. … That’s something I’ll remember when I’m old and gray.” Poly has had good sports teams in the past. Chuck Schwal’s baseball program made it to the City championship game at Dodger Stadium in 1996 and 1999. The softball team won the Invitational championship last year. Little old Poly High School, with a roster full of homegrown kids who’d barely even picked up a basketball before they stepped on campus as freshmen, nearly took down the big boys in City basketball this year. “After the game, I said to (Westchester) coach Ed Azzam, `Did we make you nervous?’ and he was like, `No, you had me scared,”‘ Poly coach Brad Katz said Friday afternoon. “When I first came here, I never thought we’d be able to compete with the elite teams in the City. Not just play. Compete. But we did that this year.” SUN VALLEY – There were a lot of grins around Poly High in Sun Valley on Friday afternoon. Yeah, the Parrots remarkable run in the City Section boys’ basketball playoffs came to an end with a loss to perennial power Westchester on Thursday night in the semifinals, but it left a pretty sweet aftertaste.