While the last year and a half has been a roller coaster for everyone, it’s been especially tumultuous for new Menlo head basketball coach Ben Batory.
He was announced as Aragon’s head coach in April of 2020 and led the program through a pandemic-altered season, only for his predecessor to come back and retake the job. Just when Batory had looked to settle in as an assistant to longtime friend Jason Greenfield at St. Ignatius, the Menlo job opened up after Keith Larsen had held it for seven years. A former assistant at Menlo, Batory was notified of the opening by parents and was named to the position after a meeting with athletic director Earl Koberlein.
“I was kind of flabbergasted,” Batory said. “They had their pick of college coaches. But when (Koberlein) told me to come in, it really gave me a boost of confidence and it turned around pretty quickly. This is a job that might open up once every 25 years.”
In his one season at Aragon, Batory’s team went 5-5 against an abbreviated league schedule solely consisting of district schools. The Dons were seeded eighth in the CCS Division II playoffs and won a second-round game over Gunn before getting bounced in the quarterfinals by top seed St. Francis.
Batory, a 49-year-old equity trader originally from New York, had plans to build Aragon into a powerhouse, but was informed of changes following the season.
“The old coach had brought me in as an assistant and stepped aside, but he wanted his job back,” Batory explained. “It put me in a bind because he’s on the administration and he gets preference and he’ll be hired automatically, and I’m not gonna fight that. He’s a friend. I’m not gonna compete with a friend. He and I talked a few weeks ago and we remain friends. It is what it is.”
Batory, who spent a year as head coach at Canisius High School in Buffalo in the 2003-04 season when his own high school coach battled cancer, will inherit a young team at Menlo that already has lots of varsity experience. Of the 14 players who suited up for Menlo during the spring season, eight were sophomores and four were juniors. Among the returners are point guard Lucas Vogel, who will be just a junior. He averaged 12.6 points across 13 games in his sophomore season.
The Knights will make their annual appearance at the Burlingame Lions Club Invitational in the second week of December and will travel between Christmas and New Year, as has been a program tradition for years. This season’s trip will be to the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic.