Ex-Davis coach Lanphear honored to have his name on Gregori stadium

jcortez@modbee.comAugust 28, 2013 

  • DEDICATION CEREMONY

    The dedication ceremony for the new Don Lanphear Stadium will be held Friday night at Gregori High School, 3701 Pirrone Road, Modesto. The ceremony will start at the conclusion of the junior varisty game between Chavez (Stockton) and Gregori — approximately 6:45 p.m. — and will last about 20 minutes.

If it were up to Don Lanphear, the former Davis High football coach, there would be more than one name atop the new scoreboard at Gregori High School.

"I want people to understand that there should be a lot of names on that board," says Lanphear, who will be at the Jaguars' season opener Friday night for the dedication of the field that bears his name. "Don't get me wrong, I'm overwhelmed and honored and thrilled."

Lanphear 68, will be immortalized for his 36 years as an educator and 15 years (1978-1990, 2000-01) as the Spartans' head coach, during which he compiled a record of 113-51-2 with six league titles and a trip to the 1984 Sac-Joaquin Section title game. He's still the only city coach to lead a Division 1 team to a section final.

One of the names that likely would appear with Lanphear's is that of the late Dan Gonsalves, the longtime wrestling and football coach at Modesto and Davis high schools for whom the field at Johansen High is named. Lanphear found out that Gregori's field would be named for him on Feb. 25 — the day Gonsalves died at age 81.

"Dan was my dear friend and a true mentor," says Lanphear. "He taught me things that were so important in kids' lives."

And Lanphear passed those things along to his players — such as Buhach Colony coach Kevin Swartwood, Pitman coach Tom Tyler and Johansen coach Grant Genasci — who are now passing them along to their players.

"Don is one of my heroes," says Tyler, who started his coaching career at crosstown rival Turlock. "He's the first one I called when I got the job at Turlock."

Swartwood remembers matchups in the late 1980s between Davis and Merced, where he was the offensive coordinator under Mark Speckman.

"In those early years at Merced High, we couldn't beat Davis," says Swartwood, whose Thunder have gone 34-5 overall and 15-0 in conference over the past three seasons. "Mark and I sat down and said, 'We've got to find a way to beat these guys.' We knew when you played a Don Lanphear team, they were going to be tough as nails and they were going to hit you all night. They were very sound."

Lanphear got his start in football 55 years ago, when his eighth-grade coach fitted him for a helmet.

"1958 was the first time I ever wore a helmet and it was leather," says Lanphear, a native of Pomona. "My coach gave me a left hook to the head and said, 'Did you feel that?'

"Of course, I could hardly see, but I said, 'No, that's good.' "

Lanphear moved to Modesto in time for his sophomore year, graduated in 1963, married his high school sweetheart, Pat, a year later, and played football for Modesto JC and San Francisco State, where he teamed with future UCLA coach Bob Toledo.

After a stint as head coach at San Francisco's Lick-Wilmerding High School, where with a roster of 14 the team went 0-7 and scored one touchdown all season, he joined Toledo as the offensive line coach at SF's Riordan High in the rugged Catholic Athletic League.

They won a league title.

But the Central Valley had made an impression on him and in 1972 he returned to teach and coach at Davis. Four decades later, they're naming a stadium after him. The effort to do so was spearheaded by former player Glenn Harris.

"I wrote the letter to the district and I lobbied the school board," says Harris, a 1982 Davis grad who also started a Facebook page to support the effort. "But let me tell you, it wasn't difficult. There was a lot of support for the idea."

Genasci, who played for Lanphear during his second stint as the Spartans' coach, says Lanphear is the reason he got into coaching.

"He's shaped my whole coaching philosophy," says Genasci, in his first season with the Vikings. "He really cared about every kid that came through his program.

"I just regret that I won't be able to go Friday when they dedicate the field."

Not that Lanphear will mind. He understands as well as anybody that a coach's Fridays are booked solid. Besides, there'll be plenty of well-wishers on hand Friday night, including some who've never heard of Don Lanphear.

"To see your name on top of that scoreboard is overwhelming," says Lanphear, who was similarly honored when Davis High named its practice field after him. "Years after I'm gone, it will still be there.

"Nobody will know who the hell it is … but that's OK."

b>Bee staff writer Joe Cortez can be reached at jcortez@modbee.com or (209) 578-2300. Follow him on Twitter @ModbeeSports


DEDICATION CEREMONY

The dedication ceremony for the new Don Lanphear Stadium will be held Friday night at Gregori High School, 3701 Pirrone Road, Modesto. The ceremony will start at the conclusion of the junior varisty game between Chavez (Stockton) and Gregori — approximately 6:45 p.m. — and will last about 20 minutes.

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