Jenna Bandy orchestrates practice. At this particular moment, she’s the maestro of the press break.
She commands the room, or in this case, the gym.
Former NBA players Kenyon Martin and Al Harrington are quietly swishing free throws in the southeast corner, but the arena belongs to Bandy, first-year head coach of the Calabasas High girls’ basketball team.
Bandy, 24, has only been coaching for two years, but she’s comfortable with a whistle, playbook and a future ripe for the taking.
“She’s ready to lead her own program,” Agoura head coach Jason Ancrum said. “She’s ready. And I couldn’t be happier for her.”
Bandy, a Thousand Oaks native, is a Lancer legend. She was a freshman starter in two sports, at shooting guard in basketball and shortstop in softball. She played college hoops at Cal State Monterey Bay.
The first daughter of the Conejo Valley was on track to become a sideline sports reporter. She majored in communications with an emphasis in journalism and media studies at Monterey Bay, and she worked as a production assistant at the ESPYs and for the Special Olympics.
One phone call from Ancrum (the friends met while playing pickup basketball at 24 Hour Fitness in Thousand Oaks) changed Bandy’s life.
He asked her to assist him at Agoura.
“I didn’t know what this whole coaching is about,” she said. “He said, come when you can. I got my feet wet—and I fell in love with coaching.”
Two years ago, Bandy helped the Chargers reach the CIFSouthern Section Division 2A championship game. Last winter, Agoura won 21 games and shared a Marmonte League title with Oaks Christian. In her first taste leading her own team, guiding Agoura’s junior varsity squad in the 2015-16 season, Bandy was honored as the league’s coach of the year.
Two years ago, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.
“I didn’t want to live out of my suitcase,” she said. “What am I really doing? What impact am I making? Now, I’m actually making an impact on kids’ lives.”
She has the charisma, confidence and knowledge to lead her own program. She wasn’t discouraged when the application for the Calabasas gig preferred candidates have five years of varsity coaching experience.
“I feel I can be that influencer and motivator,” she said. “I played in this league. I coached in this league. I’ve been in their shoes. I know what they need. I
know what they want.”
Bandy is one of only two female head coaches leading girls’ basketball teams in the Marmonte; Kristy Hopkins of Oaks Christian is the other. That fact is not lost on Bandy, who relishes being a role model for young women.
“She’s always wanted to help little girls and kids in sports,” said Jett Bandy, her older brother and catcher with the Milwaukee Brewers. “It’s not just sports but teaching them about life through basketball. I’m really proud of her being head coach at Calabasas. It’s a big step, and she deserves it.
“The sky’s the limit for Jenna.”
Coyote players are responding positively to their new coach.
“I love that she’s supportive,” said Ashley Jayamantri, an honors student and incoming sophomore guard. “I always get down on myself and she helps. She’s definitely helped me get more confidence with shooting—and everything.
“She’s made our team work better together. She’s helped our team a lot.”
Bandy dreamed of playing college basketball at UC Santa Barbara. A month after her offi- cial visit to UCSB, Bandy tore her right ACL while playing pickup ball at Pepperdine with Doris Park-Sherman, Oak Park’s firstyear head coach. Bandy heard a pop and the knee swelled, but that didn’t stop her from enjoying a gorgeous summer day at Zuma Beach, spending time with friends and tossing a football on the sand.
The ACL injury sidelined Bandy for her entire senior year, in basketball and softball, and UCSB’s interest in the talented guard cooled.
Instead of swallowing her pride and playing at a junior college for a year, Bandy decided to play Division II ball.
“I had an ego about where I was going to go. I wanted to go to a four-year school,” she said. “Looking back, if given the opportunity, I would tell girls to go the juco route.
“Who cares where you start. It’s where you finish.”
Bandy praised former Monterey Bay head coach Renee Jimenez, a Ventura native currently coaching the women’s team at Cal State San Marcos, for believing in a player with a bum knee.
“I love that she had faith in me,” Bandy said of Jimenez.
Bandy ended up tearing the ACL in her other knee on Dec. 1, 2012 against San Francisco State.
“It was more discouraging,” Bandy said of her second major knee injury. “I felt I was at my strongest.”
Undeterred, Bandy bounced back. The Otter averaged
13.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game while shooting 90.1 percent from the free-throw line during her senior season at Monterey Bay.
Bandy, who started playing baseball at age 4 in Conejo Valley Little League, said her brother Jett “taught me everything” about sports. The respect and love goes both ways.
“She’s one of the biggest competitors,” Jett Bandy said. “She always wanted to learn and always wanted to be better than the next person. . . . (But) she still can’t beat me in a game of H-O-R-S-E. I’ll still outshoot her.”
The Coyotes don’t need Bandy to make every shot, but they will need her to patiently teach and nurture a young and inexperienced group.
“I’m looking forward to her really building that program,” Ancrum said. “One thing that will be her biggest challenge will be staying patient and getting the girls ready to compete. Throughout her first summer, I’ve seen a huge difference in the way Calabasas plays. I think Jenna is the reason why.”
Calabasas finished last season with a 3-21 record, and the team has enjoyed only two winning seasons since 2004.
Bandy is now all about trusting the “process of progress,” as she calls it.
This is her gym. This is her team. This is her time.
“I love coming to work,” Bandy said. “I enjoy coming here every day, because they’re mine, because this program is my baby.”
Email sports editor Eliav Appelbaum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get to know Jenna Bandy
Jenna Bandy, 24, is the first-year head coach of the Calabasas High girls’ basketball team. Bandy played basketball and softball at Thousand Oaks High before graduating in 2010, and she went on to star on the hardwood for the Cal State Monterey Bay Otters.
Movie: “A Time to Kill”
TV show: “Chopped”
Song: “I Need It” by Johnny Balik
Dream destination: Hawaii
Team: Milwaukee Brewers
Athlete: Jett Bandy
Parents: Sheryl and John
Siblings: Jett, Gia and twin brother Jace
DID YOU KNOW?
Bandy plays in the Basketball Beauties League, comprised of many former college, international and WNBA players. Every player in the league has a nickname. Bandy’s is the “White Mamba.”