On Saturday afternoon, Etiwanda coach Dave Kleckner won his 500th career game one day after Mater Dei of Santa Ana coach Gary McKnight became the first California coach to win 1,000 career games. McKnight talks his late mentor and what he meant to him.
After Mater Dei pulled away to a 67-44 victory over Corona del Mar High School, coach Gary McKnight posed with family, well-wishers and took questions from the media. Most of it was jovial, as the long-time mentor in his 33rd season as the Monarchs’ head coach talked about his first team, his first state title team in 1987 and even some of the 85 losses.
“Some of the losses were the best games we ever played in,” McKnight said.
When the subject came up about McKight’s coaching roots, he actually got a bit emotional. Former Fountain Valley High School coach Dave Brown was a confidant but McKnight’s mentor was the late Jim Harris Sr., who won 665 games at Ocean View of Huntington Beach between 1979 and 2011. Harris Sr. passed in October 2011.
McKnight was Harris’ assistant for five seasons and was more than just a mentor on the hardwood.
“Jim Harris was the most influential person in my career,” McKnight said. “He was the best coach I’ve ever been associated with. What he had was a work ethic. He taught me how to work; it was all basketball and family, no time for golfing.”
Harris Sr. is the Godfather to McKnight’s son and McKnight is the Godfather to Harris’ daughter.
“He was a great man and I miss him,” McKnight said.
Dave Kleckner Win 500th
With Etiwanda’s 77-37 victory over Carter of Rialto on Saturday afternoon, veteran coach Dave Kleckner recorded his 500th career victory. Wyoming-bound center Jordan Naughton scored 16 points and Pepperdine-bound wing Kameron Edwards netted 17 points.
Last Saturday, we were in attendance when Kleckner went for No. 500 versus state No. 2 Centennial of Corona. The Eagles lost 67-63 and hadn’t played since. With the victory, the No. 8 Eagles upped their season record to 3-2.
Kleckner is in his 19th season at Etiwanda, where he has won two section titles, the latest in 2013. Kleckner, known for coaching teams that excel at man-to-man defense, coached for four years at Montclair High School before landing at Etiwanda.