By Kathy Chouteau
Richmond native Leticia “Moses/Mo” Oceguera became one of only four women nationwide to serve as head coach of a collegiate men’s basketball team on Saturday when she stepped in to lead the UC Merced Bobcats against the Pacific Union College Pioneer Petes.
With head coach Kevin Pham benched due to COVID-19 protocols, Oceguera—who has served as assistant coach for three years—rose to the occasion. And while the Bobcats lost in a buzzer beater 74-77, the game marked a milestone for Oceguera.
“If you fail, you just get right back up and do it again,” Oceguera said about the tough loss.
Oceguera’s road to coaching a Cal-Pac Conference men’s college team is rooted, in part, in her background playing basketball for Salesian High School in Richmond. Graduation saw her head off to UC Merced, where she was point guard on the women’s basketball team and played a role in three conference tournament championships: A championship win as a player under head coach Kevin Pham in 2014-15, as a student manager with head coach Sarah Hopkins-Chery in 2015-16 and as an assistant coach with Hopkins-Chery in 2016-17, per UC Merced.
After graduating from UC Merced in 2016 and time helping coach the women’s basketball team, Oceguera said she did some tours overseas. When Coach Pham took over as coach for the men’s basketball team, he asked Oceguera to return to the school to coach. “So I came back three years ago and have been here ever since,” she said.
Oceguera, who graduated with a degree in developmental biology, said that it took her a little while to realize that her “passion is basketball” and her ultimate goal is to “have [her] own team” someday. “I’m pretty much a person who dreams big. So if that’s college, if that’s WNBA, or if that’s NBA, I’ll go for it.”
So what does this Richmond native who’s a big fan of the LA Sparks (fave player = Lisa Leslie) and the LA Lakers (fave player = Kobe Bryant) love the most about coaching? “I feel honored, but there’s also a big sense of responsibility that comes with it,” said Oceguera, “because…it’s really not about me—I’m representing women all over the world trying to get a position like I have.”
She credited the great support system she has in her department and with her fellow coaches as helping her attain this coaching opportunity, but underscored there’s still a lot of work to be done. “I’m happy to be representing that for women and little girls, just to see that it is possible.”
When asked if she feels Richmond played a role in who she is today, Oceguera was quick to answer in the affirmative, noting that she lived in Richmond her entire life until she left for college. “The pride that we have in ourselves, the hard work, I mean—nothing is really given to people in Richmond,” she said, adding that she didn’t grow up with money. “That obviously had a big impact on me, working hard and my resilience…I feel like I definitely get the mindset from Richmond.”
She also credits her family as “behind me in everything I did,” adding “that just made me have the confidence that I do.” Oceguera gets her nickname “Mo,” short for Moses, from her father who was called “Rollie Moses” growing up in Richmond. Fast forward to when the younger Oceguera was in her mother’s womb, she quickly became known as “Baby Moses” from that time on.
And what advice does Oceguera have for girls in her hometown who are inspired by her incredible life trajectory? “For little girls, I would say that there’s no such thing as a man’s job. There are only such things as hard work, dedication and resilience. And if you have those three, you’re capable, you’re smart enough, to do any job that you want to do.”
Learn more about Richmond trailblazer Mo Oceguera here.