SACRAMENTO — The calendar says it's 2013 and this will be the last year Marlen Ronten's direct impact on Summerville High athletics will be felt.
When Ronten died of cancer at 70 in late October, 2011, the current senior class a group that includes his grandson Kyle McLaurin was weeks away from starting its junior season.
Since Ronten and current coach Ben Watson were co-coaches the previous season, these were the last Bears to be directly coached in basketball by Ronten, who took over the varsity program in 1975.
There may be no more fitting tribute to Ronten's contributions to the school that the last group of players he coached went out and won the school's first boys' basketball section championship.
And there was no better storybook way for that victory to happen then with McLaurin coming off the bench in the fourth quarter to connect on back-to-back 3-pointers at the perfect moment the only two shots he took in the game to make sure Liberty Ranch wasn't going to stage a comeback.
"This means everything," said McLaurin, whose father Mike McLaurin Ronten's son-in-law is an assistant coach. "He never got here. It's just something I'm just glad to be a part of because I did it for him."
The young man had his own reasons to be emotional, yet chose to spend his tears on his grandfather. Just two months ago, McLaurin spent several days in an intensive care unit at Stanford University Hospital after what was thought to be a groin pull turned out to be an abscess that developed into a dangerous staph infection.
At the time, according to his father, all Kyle wanted to do was to come back and finish the season with his team.
Someone asked during the press conference why the team took to the court in school T-shirts emblazoned on the back with "Ronten 5."
McLaurin volunteered to tell the story and got about 10 words into the explanation about how that was his grandpa's number at Summerville before excusing himself his words were gone.
He never got to the details, such as how Ronten, from the Class of 1958, had earned 12 varsity letters, how he came back to teach in the district in 1966 and coached just about every sport at the school in addition to being the athletic director and teaching math.
In many ways, for many people, Ronten WAS Summerville High.
Ronten retired from teaching in 1998, but didn't stop coaching until diagnosed with multiple myeloma just before the 2009-10 season. Even then, he felt well enough to return to the bench the following season, with Watson at his side.
"I never saw him even attempt to be anything but composed," Watson said. "Even at practice, if he got mad at a kid, he'd call that kid over to the side, they'd talk about it and there was never any question. I think the kids know when I'm upset at them.
"You don't have to be an in-your-face coach to have complete control of your team. That's the biggest thing he taught me."
Watson himself wouldn't be at Summerville if not for Ronten. He was a multi-sport standout Sonora and two-year basketball starter at Modesto Junior College for Al Hobby, and was teaching and coaching in the California-Nevada border town of Coleville.
"He called and told me about an opening for a football and baseball coach at Summerville and said at the time that he was about ready to get out of coaching basketball, and that was in 1988," said Watson, who is in the rare position of being a high school head coach in both basketball and football.
"I don't think I'll ever have a more enjoyable coaching experience than that year with Marlen. As great as this has been this year, that season as a co-coach with Marlen was the best."
Mike McLaurin was a two-year starter for Summerville, and his senior season of 1975-76 was Ronten's first as the Bears' head coach. He returned to the Bears as an assistant in 1990.
"I thought all coaches talked about moving without the ball, about the need to use both right and left hands, about how to pass from everywhere on the court and how to grab a rebound," the elder McLaurin said. "It wasn't the case. I played a year of college basketball. I wasn't good at anything flashy, but I could set up a screen and knew how to set up an assist for the assisters.
"Eight years after that I was working at Summerville Elementary and I married his daughter. Because he was my coach I didn't know if I would ever be able to do anything right enough with his daughter. It took me a while to get through that."
McLaurin choked up almost immediately each time he started to speak about his father-in-law, much in the same way his son was forced to talk in halting and emotion-filled short phases.
But for Summerville High, certainly the statute of limitations on the impact of coaches, even those who worked in the same district for 45 years, run out eventually, right?
The calendar lies.
As long as the Bears wear orange and black, as long as their athletes are as tough as their timberland heritage, and as long as that blue banner they won Saturday hangs in their gym, Ronten will be a part of everything Summerville.