NORWALK — The word legendary gets thrown around a lot at times when discussing coaches. Vince Lombardi was the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers because he led them to five titles in seven years.
Tom Landry was the legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys for almost 30 years. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick will deserve that title in a few years, if he doesn’t already, and the same goes for University of Alabama coach Nick Saban.
Here in Southern California, one of the legendary coaches announced his retirement last week. Cerritos College football coach Frank Mazzotta used his Facebook page to tell friends, colleagues and former players that he was retiring as the Falcons football coach after 40 years as head coach.
“I have submitted my paperwork to retire as a faculty member and head football coach at Cerritos College,” Mazzotta said. “It wasn’t an easy decision. … I’m retiring on my terms and know the program will continue to do well and produce great student-athletes and men.”
Most coaches don’t last 40 years in the profession, let alone at the same job.
Mazzotta came to Cerritos College as an assistant coach to Ernie Johnson in 1976 and succeeded Johnson as the head coach two years later.
Mazzotta had played for Johnson at El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera, winning the CIF Southern Section 3A title in 1960 his junior year.
He continued his football career at Long Beach City Council and the University of Utah, where he was an all Western States Athletic Conference tight end and played in the Liberty Bowl in 1964.
After college, Mazzotta returned to El Rancho as an assistant coach for five years, before landing the head coaching job at Warren High School in Downey in 1973. After turning that program around in three years, he left to join his high school coach at Cerritos and has been there ever since.
During his 40 years at Cerritos, Mazzotta has won 252 games, with a winning percentage higher than 60 percent. He guided the Falcons to 21 bowl games.
More than 500 of his players have gone on to receive college scholarships to continue their career after Cerritos and more than 60 former players have gone into coaching at some level.
The coaching tree includes Jeff Tedford, who played quarterback at Cerritos College in 1979 and 1980 before going onto Fresno State. Tedford played six years in the Canadian Football League before returning to the U.S. to become an assistant coach at the college level.
He was the head coach at Cal for 10 years and is now the head coach at his alma mater, Fresno State, after a year as head coach of the British Columbia Lions in the CFL.
Mazzotta is proud of Tedford’s accomplishments, but he is more proud of two other members of his coaching tree, his sons Frank Jr. and Casey.
Both played for their dad before going off to four-year schools. Frank Jr. was a JC All-American wide receiver in 1986-87 at Cerritos before playing for the University of Utah.
For the last 16 years, he has been the head coach at La Habra High School where he has won four Southern Section Division titles.
His younger son, Casey, played at Brigham Young University after two years at Cerritos before joining the coaching fraternity. The youngest Mazzotta is now the head coach at Mt. San Jacinto College in Riverside County, a job he has held for nine seasons.
In his retirement message, Mazzotta indicated he probably would be coaching in some capacity next fall and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him helping out one of his sons.
The impact Mazzotta has had on his players was evident on his Facebook post as player after player thanked him for what he had meant to them and the role he played in their lives.
I met Mazzotta when I was a scrawny 4-foot-9, 60-pound 14 year old who thought I was going to play football at The Ranch. (Except for my lack of speed, size and strength, I was a pretty good football player.) Mazzotta, who was also the high school gymnastic coach, tried to steer me in that direction. I ended up serving as student manager of the football team and have kept in touch with Mazzotta — and the rest of the coaches from those teams — over the years.
There is a bond between a coach and his players that is impossible to describe to those who haven’t experienced it. Judging from the response to his Facebook post, hundreds of Mazzotta’s former players still feel that bond.
A retirement party is being planned for Mazzotta for noon May 20 at Cerritos College. It will give former players, friends and fans of Cerritos College football once last chance to say thank you to a great coach who is an even better person. Best of luck in retirement, coach.
FAIR-WEATHER FANS: It hasn’t taken long for the fans who jumped on the Dodgers bandwagon last October to jump off after the team’s slow start this year. The Dodgers are 7-9 so far, five games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West race with 146 games left to play.
Their clubhouse leader and most consistent hitter, third baseman Justin Turner, hasn’t played yet because of a broken wrist. He will back in early May and the team will start hitting better.
After going 0-2 in his first three starts, Clayton Kershaw looked to be in mid-season form April 15 as he defeated the Diamondbacks to snap a losing streak.
If there is something to worry about with the Dodgers so far, it is the performance of closer Kenley Jansen. Last year in 68 innings, he gave up five home runs. This year, in 6 and two-thirds innings, he has allowed three home runs.
In 65 games last year in the regular season, Jansen blew only one save in 42 opportunities. Already this year he has blown two of four save opportunities and he lost another game that he entered with the score tied.
Jansen’s velocity isn’t what it has been in the past and his ball has lost movement as well, a bad combination for any pitcher. Hopefully, it is a mechanical issue that Jansen and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt can take care of.
Jansen is arguably the third most important player on the Dodgers roster after Kershaw and Turner. If he is hiding an injury, I might jump off that bandwagon, too.
BASKETBALL WRAP: The Clippers finished with a better record than the Lakers did this year, but overall the Lakers had a better season.
Back in October, I wrote that a 35-win season would be a good year for the Lakers and that is exactly what they ended with. When healthy, Lonzo Ball proved that he could be an NBA point guard, but you could argue that Ball was the team’s third best rookie this year.
Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart both proved that they can play in the league as well. Hart, who played on Villanova’s 2016 NCAA championship team, averaged 7.9 points a game and scored a career-high 30 points in the final game against the Clippers.
Drafted 27th by the Lakers, Kuzma was even more impressive, averaging 16.1 points a game, tying him with Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram for the team lead.
If NBA general managers had a draft do-over tomorrow, Kuzma would probably go in the top 10.
The Lakers now play a waiting game until free agency starts in July. They hope to add at least one superstar (Paul George?) and are hoping for two (LeBron James?).
The Clippers are at a crossroads. They are waiting for DeAndre Jordan to decide if he will opt out of his contract or stick around. Jordan’s decision could determine what coach Doc Rivers will do. Rivers has a year left on his contract and no NBA coach wants to go into a season with one year left on his deal and a bunch of holes in the roster.
If Jordan jumps ship and the Clippers don’t offer Rivers an extension, he may follow Jordan. At this stage, the Clippers are in worse shape than the Lakers, the way it was before former Commissioner David Stern gave them Chris Paul.