New Mater Dei Football Coach Raul Lara Preaches Structure, Discipline

The new Monarchs coach was officially introduced on Wednesday, and wasted no time signaling a culture change for the storied program.
New Mater Dei football coach Raul Lara speaks to the media at his introductory press conference on June 5, 2024.
New Mater Dei football coach Raul Lara speaks to the media at his introductory press conference on June 5, 2024. / Tarek Fattal, SB Live Sports

Raul Lara has been the busiest man in Santa Ana over the past month.

Mater Dei announced Lara as its new football coach on April 26, and since then, he’s been getting acclimated to life as a Monarch. He’s been getting acquainted with 200 full-time employees at Mater Dei, partaking in donor meetings, evaluating his coaching staff, and of course, getting to know his team.

Lara, who’s most known for his time at Long Beach Poly where he won five CIF Southern Section titles, was officially introduced on Wednesday morning. He met with local media and took questions about his vision for the program heading into the 2024 season and beyond.

Lara, 58, spent time as a probation officer earlier in his life. He’s familiar with young men and how important structure is. It’s a foundational piece to his coaching philosophy as he dons new colors on the sidelines this fall.

“The probation department really helped me get a different perspective on kids. To be honest, the ‘probation kid’ and the ‘football kid’—a regular kid—they’re the same kids,” Lara explained.
“The issue is kids having structure and not having structure. The kids that don’t have structure are on ‘survivor mode.’

“Within the first few days of me being here, we changed the structure and 90 to 95% of the kids have responded real well,” Lara added. “Kids want structure, even if they say they don’t, they do.”

Lara will take over for Frank McManus, who was at the helm for one season before being dismissed. McManus was the successor to longtime, legendary coach Bruce Rollinson.

“I was a little shocked to see there wasn’t much structure,” Lara said of his first few days with the team. “... (the players) were in the weight room and none of them had any uniforms on. That was daunting. Coming in, I was expecting all of them to come in with their red shirts on and gray shorts, like a soldier. I didn’t see that.”

Despite Mater Dei winning the CIF Southern Section Division 1 and CIF State Open Division championships last season under McManus, his off-the-field antics are what got him in hot water. The head coaching job at Mater Dei requires a lot more than just a football coach, it requires a CEO-like personality.

Lara understands that.

“I think I had 12 meetings (Tuesday),” Lara said chuckling. “There’s no doubt [it takes more than football], I’m meeting people left and right. To me, it’s kind of neat. I’m on a rollercoaster enjoying the time.”

SI Staff