Emerson, 44, was head man at Citrus from 2001 to 2007 and posted a 46-27 record that included four straight Western State Conference South championships and was twice named conference coach of the year.
Emerson first came to OCC out of Canyon High in Anaheim Hills, where he was a defensive back. He converted to receiver, but never played for the Pirates. Instead, worn down by the commute to Costa Mesa, he transferred to Santa Ana College, where a knee injury prevented him from playing for the Dons.
Emerson, who earned a degree in kinesiology and health promotion from Cal State Fullerton in 1995, said he played with the semi-professional Orange County Cowboys, which he equated with "Pop Warner for men."
He spent three seasons coaching the secondary and quarterbacks as a Canyon assistant, before returning to Santa Ana (then Rancho Santiago) as a receivers coach. He was offensive coordinator at Santa Ana in 1996, when the Dons captured a conference title and won the McDonald's Bowl.
He has been offensive coordinator in each of his seasons as a head coach and will do so for the Pirates. He said he plans to run a versatile no-huddle offense that will include principles of the spread and a power running game.
Emerson, who ran his first workout Tuesday with the 54 players enrolled in the spring football class, said he and his assistants are feverishly attacking recruiting, an area in which he admits he is behind other programs.
He said players and coaches have been eager to embrace change as the program comes off back-to-back 3-7 seasons and last had a winning record in 2006.
His top priority, he said, will be developing players to continue to compete at four-year schools and he has sent 176 players to the next level in his last eight seasons as a head coach.
A resident of Eastvale, near Corona, he said he has a 34-minute commute to OCC, just four minutes more than his driving time to San Bernardino Valley. He and his wife, Joanna, have two sons ages 10 and 8, as well as a 6-year-old daughter.
"Orange Coast College is a special place and I've always had my eye on this job, if it ever became available," Emerson said. "Even when I was at Citrus, I was interested in the Orange Coast job. My philosophy and what we have done [at his two previous programs] is convenient for the situation that Coast is in right now."