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The state’s second winningest softball coach for career wins, 72-year-old Ron Clarke, has died.
Clarke passed away on April 4 in Stockton while preparing to coach the NorCal Tremors club team. He was more well known by us for his many years as the softball coach at Fairfield High. From 1978 to 2010, he guided the Falcons to a 732-256-5 record that included four CIF Sac-Joaquin Section championships.
According to a story in the Stockton Record, Clarke was planning to return to high school coaching when a great granddaughter was old enough to play.
In addition to his focused approach to coaching, what stood out to us about Clarke was that he lived in Stockton but made the commute through Lodi and over Highway 12 for all those years to Fairfield. In 2012, he was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame.
The only coach on the all-time state list with more wins than Clarke is Jim Liggett from Carlmont of Belmont. Liggett started the current season at 964-205-4.
GROVES ADDED TO BASEBALL LIST
Thanks to research done by writer George Watkins of the Salinas Californian, Monterey High baseball coach Michael Groves now has more than 680 career wins. It’s an ongoing total this season – Groves started the spring with 678 wins – that makes him the winningest in CIF Central Coast Section history and puts him at No. 10 on the all-time state list.
Groves started coaching at Monterey in 1981 and in one stretch had 14 straight 20-win seasons. He’s been leading the program there while at the same time building one of the most successful land use and environmental planning companies in Northern California.
This year’s team fell to 7-10 after losing a pair of games last week to Monta Vista of Cupertino.
ROMANO SAYS HE WANTS TO COACH AGAIN
We had a nice conversation earlier this week with former Nogales of La Puente baseball coach John Romano, who retired after the 2014 season with a 635-354-9 record.
Romano had been the leader of Nogales baseball since 1979 and called because he was curious if his coaching totals had been added to the Cal-Hi Sports state record book. They were.
In speaking with him, however, he said that he hopes to return to being a head coach next season. Since retiring, Romano has had hip replacement surgery and he mentioned that it’s given him a huge lift.
Like many other baseball coaches we’ve spoken to over the years, such as Cordova’s Guy Anderson and the late John Stevenson of El Segundo, Romano just has the desire to coach in his blood. We look forward to hearing about him taking another job soon.
700 THE MAGIC NUMBER
For California boys basketball coaches with a lot of success over a lot of years, getting the 700th win was one of the top storylines of the 2014-15 season.
Early on, Harvey Kitani from Fairfax of Los Angeles won his 700th in what ended up being one of the best seasons that Kitani and the Lions have ever had. They eventually won the L.A. City Section Open Division title and finished 32-3. At one point, after a big win over Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth, Fairfax had a 23-0 record and was ranked among the top five teams in the nation.
At the end of the season, two more coaches won their 700th games – Sam Sullivan of L.A. Fremont and Tom Bonfigli from Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa.
Of course, early on in the season, Santa Ana Mater Dei’s Gary McKnight won his 1,000th game. McKnight also came just one point shy of the Monarchs winning their fifth straight CIF state title.
GIRLS BB COACHES ON THE RISE
For many years, Joe Vaughan of Ventura Buena has been the state’s winningest all-time girls basketball coach with his total of 761 wins from 1976 until his retirement in 2007.
It may take a few more years, but indications are that Santa Ana Mater Dei’s Kevin Kiernan will eventually break that record.
With a 31-3 record for this season and including his previous years at Troy of Fullerton, Kiernan has now moved up to No. 3 on the all-time state list and is just seven wins shy of now-retired No. 2 place-holder Doug Johnson of Petaluma.
Brian Harrigan, the former Sacred Heart Cathedral head coach now at St. Francis of Mountain View, has moved up to No. 4 but during the 2014-15 season also was surpassed by Kiernan. Considering the competition that Harrigan’s teams face each year in the West Catholic Athletic League, he won’t be able to catch up.
Another highlight of the season was Loomis Del Oro’s Mike Takayama winning his 600th game. Early on in the next season, look for both Jay Trousdale of Poway and Sue Phillips from Archbishop Mitty of San Jose to win their 600th games.