Greg Gano finds perspective in what may be final chapter at Wilson

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There was a time when Greg Gano cared about where his next CIF championship ring was going to come from.

When you win four, it can be addicting. Those days have quickly gone, though. Gano, whether by choice or error, has been rapidly adding chapters to his career in recent years. And that’s not always a good sign for a coach.

The latest and perhaps final chapter for Gano is at Wilson High School. Yes, the same Wilson that’s just down the road from where Gano cemented his name with some of the industry’s best coaches at Los Altos.

Gano’s arrival at the Hacienda Heights campus is a culmination of events that has led the Valley legend to become reflective and less hell bent on wins and losses at a time when most his coaches his age would trying to salt their legacy.

“The only thing I can say is that I’m the same guy I was in 2002,” Gano said before practice on Monday afternoon. “But it’s not about me anymore. I want our kids to feel that I care about them. That is the main focus that I had coming into this year, is that the kids know I care about them and what they’re doing on and off the football field.”

Gano’s career has hit several speed bumps since he resigned his position at Los Altos following the 2007 season. After taking a year off, he was hired at Damien in a move that many thought would make the Spartans an area power and maybe more.

It didn’t happen. Following a 20-22 record in four seasons, Gano resigned and promised he wouldn’t be out of coaching long. He wasn’t. Gano was soon the head coach at Tustin. But that was over soon after it got started and Gano was out at Tustin after an 0-4 start in 2013.

“It didn’t work at Damien,” Gano said. “I was probably in the wrong place at the wrong time. So be it. We did some good things over there. We played some good people. Tustin was an unfortunate situation. Again, wrong place at the wrong time.”

The bitter endings at his past two stops have led some to wonder whether Gano should have ever left Los Altos after he was so successful following in the footsteps of another legend Dwayne DeSpain.

“Do I regret it?” Gano said. “There are times when I’ve thought I shouldn’t have left LA. Yeah, that thought’s crossed my mind. You always think the grass is greener on the other side and it’s not. But it was a year where I was really tired and I wanted to spend more time with my daughter Courtney.”

It’s in his daughter Courtney, a former area softball standout who now plays at Washington, that Gano finds most of his inspiration from these days. And it’s through an unfortunate health issue that Courtney has recently encountered that Gano has gained perspective about what’s really important.

While running the bases during practice in March, Courtney Gano collapsed unable to feel her feet. She was rushed to the hospital and later given the diagnosis of Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, or CIDP. It’s a condition in which there’s progressive weakness and impaired sensory function in the legs and arms.

“It took its toll,” Gano said. “When you get a phone call from the head coach that your daughter is in the emergency room and they don’t know what’s wrong, but she can’t walk and can’t throw a ball five feet, yeah, it takes its toll. It’s kind of frightening.”

After undergoing treatment, Courtney Gano is on the path to recovery. She has one more round of treatment but is already rehabbing and on track to play this season for Washington. Meanwhile, her father is on track to hopefully rebuild a once-proud program that’s gone dormant. But it won’t be easy.

The struggles Los Altos incurred after Gano left are now a distant memory. Although the Conquerors haven’t added another CIF championship since Gano left, they’re back to being one of the area’s top programs. That’s going to make things very difficult at Wilson in terms of securing the school district’s top talent.

While Gano isn’t as bent on winning as he once was, his fuse is clearly still lit. The first challenge will be improving the program’s numbers, which sit at around 60 players between varsity and junior varsity, and about 40 at the freshmen level.

The next step will be improving the talent level, which Gano admits is considerably lighter than what he’s used to, but hopefully enough to compete in the Valle Vista League where defending CIF Mid-Valley Division champion San Dimas rules the roost.

Wilson ran a Wing-T offense under previous coach Nick Christos. Gano is switching the program to his pro-style attack. He’s doing so with a smallish coaching staff, but longtime defensive coordinator Lee Fair is back at Gano’s side.

Mark Sept. 12 on your calendars. That’s the night when Gano will play Los Altos for the first time since he left. And to add to the intrigue, the game is at Los Altos.

“I’ll say what I said when I took this job, Greg Gano doesn’t have the magic wand,” Gano said. “We’re going to coach the kids up and we’re going to have at it. We have to change the culture back to have the kids think highly of football at Wilson High School.

“I’ve been there, done that. I don’t need rings. I don’t need to win 500 games in the next five years and that’s okay. I need to coach kids and watch my daughter grow up.”

  • TruTH

    That will be a tough game for Gano. Wilson has not scored on Los Altos in two years. By the looks of both teams this season they might not score this year as well. Both teams in hacienda heights have taken different paths. I wonder when the game starts if Gano will wish he were in the home sideline instead of the visitor side.

    • hecticbuck

      both are in different leagues and i assure you los altos aint winning there league. and wilson schedule is so soft outside of los alotos and san dimas that i wouldnt be surprise if wilson goes 6-4

      • TruTH

        Well maybe they don’t win their league but they have a pretty good shot at it in my books. They are returning probably the best team in league from last season so I wouldn’t write them off. As far as Wilson it will be a long season. I highly doubt they go 6-4 from the schedule they have I see them winning at most 3 games this year.

        • The stands

          Most will agree that Wilson will get creamed by Los Altos. In fact, the fist three games for LA should be easy wins. The Glendora and Monrovia games should be interesting though.

          • Conq’76

            Do you know much about Santa Monica? Cal Preps has LA a three point favorite.

          • TruTH

            They are a pretty good matchup against LA. They have a stud outside linebacker but lost key offensive player to graduation

          • The stands

            Fair enough but what do you think of LA’s chances against Glendora and Monrovia? I spoke to an LA lineman that graduated last year and he feels the O line and D line are exceptional compared to last year. He also stated that the QB doesn’t have the scrambling ability of Hacegaba but is coming along nicely.

          • Conq’76

            I don’t claim any knowledge about Glendora, Monrovia or even CO and Wes Co other than what I read in the Tribune and on these blogs. Historically, at least over the last Decade Glendora has competed against teams in a higher Div. than LA and Monrovia against teams in a lesser Div. Those games should be interesting to say the least!

          • TruTH

            Los altos will have a good year. They are returning a good amount of players and probably the best defensive line in the area. It’s going to be a long game for some quarterbacks when three legit defensive lineman are coming at u. Glendora will be a good game I see them evenly matched with the advantage being Fink at quarterback for Glendora. Monrovia will also be a good matchup for playoffs to see how they can cover speed in the outside. Charter Oak will be a tough game but I like the chances of Los Altos winning their league this year.

        • hecticbuck

          oh yeah you give los altos a chance of winning league over charter oak. what world are you living in

          • Conq’76

            It wasn’t THAT long ago that LA and CO would battle it out every year. Farrar is a great coach and produces quality teams every year, but even he is prone to a re-building year now and again. CO is still going to have to “suit up” and earn its League Championship.

          • TruTH

            Well if we take a look at CO this year they lost their best defensive players. They are bringing in a new quarterback but are returning a really good running back. I don’t see charter oak an all out favorite to win league. In fact I would give both Los Altos and West Covina a shot at beating CO this year.

          • hecticbuck

            never in your wildest dream will los altos beat charter oak. thats just common sense to figure out. how many african americans are on los altos= 0 and charter oak=20 enough said

          • Foosure

            Really, So that’s how it goes, The team with the most black kids wins? Why play the games, when we can just count the number of black kids on the roster? I’m just wondering how La Serna won the the Southeast Championship last year with almost all Hispanic kids and Muir was eliminated in the Semi’s. I guess they didn’t get the memo?

            FYI – I would put my money on LA to finish higher then CO in league standings this year and would not be the least bit surprised to see WC finish in front of CO either.

          • hecticbuck

            another dreamer who is drinking the koolaid at los altos. so your telling me that a buch of hispanic kids at los altos stand a better chance of winning league than a bunch of black kids at charter oak. hey i got some ocean property to sell you in kansas .

          • Conq’76

            I heard all the kids from Amat are from Mars, this gives them a huge advantage….sheesh, are you kidding me?

          • LA83

            LA has 11 CIF Championships that says, “yes, a bunch of Hispanic kids can and often do beat a bunch of Black kids” By the way, 11 championships is more then double the number of championships that CO has.

          • Conq’76

            And way, way back, LA fielded a team that was primarily caucasion and hispanic….bunch of white boys playin’ ball, Hertel, Benton, Hill, Hewko’s, Seeber….

          • AramT

            Conqs76,

            Good to see you back. Good to see your boys back. Expecting a big year from them. Can’t wait for the Glendora game.

  • Tan K Solot

    This is just too bizarre seeing Greg at Wilson. Lee follows along like a trained Gila monster. Wilson is more of a golf or tennis school now. Imports will be required to replace the imports they have.

    • The Living Legend

      Gano was a coach at Wilson long before he ever walked the sidelines at Los Altos

      • TheLA Critic

        Not true. Gano first coached at Los Altos in 1983.