Gann among greatest
Area Sports by Michael Dashiell, Sequim, Wash., Gazette
Dec. 23, 2010
Ted Williams, Don Larsen, Bill Walton, Tony Gwynn, Leonard Gann.
Which of these names doesn’t belong?
If you had said Leonard Gann two months ago, you’d have been correct.
The former high school coach, who led teams in six different sports and racked up 322 wins, seven league titles and two sectional titles in prep softball, was inducted into the San Diego County High School Coaching Legends at the San Diego Hall of Champions, joining some of the nation’s greatest coaches and athletes.
Dignitaries and former players honored the retired coach at a ceremony at the hall on Nov. 10.
“Totally surprised,” Gann says of his selection. “I thought it was quite an honor.”
A committee that honors coaches for the hall contacted Gann, a Sequim resident for the past five years, about two years ago. He filled out an application detailing his 35 years of coaching football, baseball, basketball, softball, soccer and tennis teams for the San Marco, Calif., Unified School District.
“I never gave it any more thought,” Gann says.
He worked as a teacher for the district, in special education, health and safety, and, for the last decade or so, as head of the physical education department.
He led the San Marco High School softball squad to a sectional title in 1996. When San Marco got too big and split into two schools, he headed up the Mission Hills High softball squad, leading that team to a sectional title in 2005.
He was named Coach of the Year five times, receiving the AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year award in 2003, the High School Sports Association Assistant Coaches Award in 2004 and the Cal-Hi Sports Coach of the Year in 2005.
Well before that, however, Gann had his eyes on Sequim. His wife Jane’s twin sister Anne Terrell lived in Sequim and the Ganns planned their move about four years before he called it quits at San Marco.
Gann helped lead the Sequim junior varsity football squad and worked with Sequim’s baseball program before finally calling it a career this July — officially 40 years of coaching.
For love of the game
It’s a retirement in name only. Gann, 63, is also player-manager for the Sequim Senior Softball team.
“This guy is an athlete,” says teammate John Zervos. “I think I’m pretty good. I’m one of the fastest on the team (but) I can’t keep up with Leonard. He’s the leader of the team.”
And while playing the game keeps Gann’s competitive juices flowing, he says there’s something special about being a coach.
“You always love to compete (but) … to watch (a game) is probably more satisfying,” Gann says.
If he had to pick, Gann says his favorite sports to coach are softball and football.
“It takes a total team effort to win,” he says. “In basketball, it takes five guys, maybe a couple off the bench. But (in football), if all 11 guys aren’t working together, you don’t win.”
A good winning percentage, however, doesn’t mean someone is a good coach, Gann says.
“It’s not so much wins and losses; it’s how the kids respond to the coach,” Gann says. “Some of my best teams were not the most talented.”
About 70 or 80 former players joined Gann and 11 other San Diego-area high school prep coaching stars at the ceremony in November.
Zervos joked that Gann needed to go out and buy long pants for the ceremony, since team members say they’d never seen their teammate in anything but shorts — even in chilly Sequim winter weather.
“I never wore long pants … except in the classroom,” Gann says. “You need to be professional in the classroom.”
The San Diego coaching icon says Sequim is home now, even if his name and career highlights reside in Southern California.
“I truly miss the even weather they have, but I don’t miss much more than that,” Gann says. “Sequim’s a great place. I wish I could have grown up here. It’s the small community I guess. The kids here are great — and the coaches.”