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March 13, 2007 > A lifelong love affair with basketball

A lifelong love affair with basketball

By Steve Michel

Born in 1929, John Wagoner remembers a life of loving the game of basketball. His playing career started in 1943 as a guard for Chico High School where he posted a career average of 10 points per game.

After graduating from Chico in 1947, Wagoner went to work as a telephone lineman. Then in 1951, he served a two-year hitch in the Army during the Korean War. After leaving the military in 1953 he went back to college at Chico State University. "I really missed playing basketball after high school and knew I wanted to play college basketball and also get my degree and teaching credentials so that I could get into coaching later in life," stated Wagoner. "I also grew three inches after high school. I was a 5'11 guard in high school. In college at Chico State I was a 6'2 forward." Wagoner averaged 12 points per game as a forward at Chico.

After graduating in 1958 with a degree in Physical Education, he was hired as a high school basketball head coach at Shafter High School in Bakersfield in 1959. Wagoner's teams won two league championships in his three years at Shafter High.

In 1962 Wagoner was hired by Chabot College in Hayward as a Physical Education instructor and head basketball coach. He served 17 years as head basketball coach until 1979, and continued teaching phys-ed until his retirement in 1994. He notes, "I was at Chabot College 32 years and 17 years as basketball coach and really enjoyed it. I had 144 players letter in basketball and 103 of those players went on to play basketball at four-year schools. 75 of my players got college degrees.

Nearly three decades have passed since he retired, but Wagoner still remembers the career details of many more of his 144 players at Chabot. "The best player I coached at Chabot College was Tom Crenshaw who played for me from 1966-1968. He was a great shooter, averaged 23 points per game for us and helped our team win the Golden Gate Conference Championship in 1968. He got a scholarship to play at the University of Southern California. He started at forward for USC and then played four or five years of pro basketball in Europe.

"The second best player I ever coached was Mike Peet who played for me from 1972-1974. He was another great shooting forward who had good size at 6'6 and averaged 20 points per game during his Chabot career. Peet helped us win our second Golden Gate Conference Championship in 1974. Mike got a scholarship to play at the University of the Pacific. After UOP he played basketball for money for the Washington Generals. That was the team that played the Harlem Globetrotters and toured with them all around the world."

After retiring from full-time coaching, Wagoner started a basketball scouting service. "I ran my scouting service from 1979-2002. 23 years I ran the scouting service and enjoyed it very much. However I enjoyed my 17 years as Chabot basketball coach even more. I had so many great players who always listened to my instructions and they always worked very hard and gave their best effort during practice and games. Most of my players came from working class families and they instilled that work ethic in my players at a young age. That made my job a lot easier. I think today's players are harder to coach. '
Today at age 77, Wagoner goes to the gym three days per week to work out and stay in shape. He add, "I still go to Chabot basketball games and I go out to Fremont to watch Ohlone College and I go to Pleasant Hill to watch Diablo Valley College play. I still watch a lot of major college basketball on television.

"I spent most of my life as a basketball player and basketball coach and enjoyed every minute of it. I would advise any young person if you have the chance to go to college you should. And getting into coaching and teaching is a very rewarding life," concluded Coach Wagoner.

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