Recently, I was talking to a friend about the joys of being a high school athletic director.
Up until the late-1970s, to be a coach of a high school team in California you had to have a California teaching credential. This sometimes caused problems when there were not enough teachers on the staff that were qualified or willing to coach. During the early part of my 25 years as an athletic director there were times when a season was about to start and no coach was available.
This was really true with girls sports when they were first starting out. With no coach available, and as athletic director, I became coach. One year, while I was athletic director at Yucca Valley High School, I got really lucky. Girls basketball season was about to start and it looked like I was going to get to be the coach.
Enter a man by the name of Robert “Ducky” Dowell, who had recently moved to town. Ducky had been the head men’s basketball coach at Pepperdine University for 27 years. Pepperdine is a Division 1 university with a successful basketball program. He had retired and moved with his family to Yucca Valley and on occasion worked as a substitute teacher at the high school.
One day, when Ducky was subbing I jokingly asked him to unretire and coach our girls basketball team that season. His reply was “Dick, if you take the job I will be your assistant as long as I don’t have to travel.”
We decided that we were going to coach the girls just like they were a boys team. We knew we would really stress the fundamentals, which we did, and we ran and ran and ran. We wanted to be in better condition than our opponents.
It worked out great, and the fact that the girls really bought into the idea of having a famous coach really helped. They developed into a good team and had lots of fun. Ducky and I had a great time, too. We won most of our games and came within one game of winning the league. When the season was over I could not thank Coach Ducky Dowell enough. It ended up being a fun experience for both of us and what I learned from Ducky really prepared me for if I ever had to coach basketball again.
Fortunately, the state changed the rules so that we could hire coaches without teaching credentials so long as they had other qualifications. I still look back and I am thankful how lucky I was to work to get to work with Ducky.
Dick Trone writes on his reflections and the history of Del Norte High Warrior sports. Trone, who played football for the Warriors and graduated in 1951, had an illustrious career on the gridiron at Humboldt State University. Trone was head football coach at Del Norte High for a number of years before retiring.