By Steve Ramirez, Staff Writer
Retirement just didn’t sit well with Tony Zane.
He enjoyed his time away from high school football but, unlike soldiers, old coaches don’t just fade away. They continue coaching. Zane, who left Baldwin Park High School after the 2002 season, is back doing what he does best – coaching. The former Baldwin Park mentor, who won two CIF-Southern Section divisional titles with the Braves, is at Bassett, where he hopes to revive a program that has won just two games the past two seasons and only two league titles since 1995.
In one sense, it’s the perfect spot for Zane to work his magic, which also included coaching two players to CIF-SS Player of the Year awards and countless CIF-SS and area records.
“This is going to be fun,” said Zane, who will work from the press box when Bassett opens its season Friday with a home game against Buena Park. “I’ve always wanted to start back to some team that hasn’t been as successful. To me, that’s where it’s at.
“It’s not like joining a team that’s been a perennial winner. This is fun. It’s a challenge. I want to take it like that and come here and try to win a few games.”
He’s won more than just a few in the past.
Bassett is getting perhaps the most respected offensive mind in the area. His schemes helped Baldwin Park win CIF-SS titles in 1980 and ’91 and he coached Michael Johnson (1984) and Marc Ruiz (1991) to division player of the year honors.
“Tony would always find your toad (weakest player in the defense) and exploit it,” said South Hills coach Steve Bogan of Zane, who matched wits against him when they were in the Valle Vista League.
Zane, who also assisted at Western Christian the past few years, was at Baldwin Park for 31 years, the final 13 as head coach. He won two CIF-SS titles, 47 playoff games and 16 league championships.
“He brings the name to the program,” Bassett coach Leon Ward said. “He’s only been retired a few years, so the kids still know his name. It does a lot for the program to have a big name. I can’t tell you how excited we are to have him here.
“He’s had a great career, won some championships, set records. He has a wealth of experience and we’re happy to have him.”
Zane is expected to to provide help for a team that recently has struggled. The Olympians, who last won a league title in 2003, have finished 1-9 the past two seasons. But Zane believes they can be quite productive this season.
“Realistically, they are just like the kids at Baldwin Park, just not as many,” Zane said of his new team. “At Baldwin Park, we might have 60 kids come out. Here it’s 30.
“We have a few young kids who are good and a few seniors who are really good. There’s a lot of skilled kids here. Their work ethic is good and they pay attention.”
The move has been a benefit for Bassett quarterbacks Jacobe Flores, a senior, and Robert Rodriguez, a junior. Both have thrived during summer practice and learned more about the position than they ever could have imagined.
“He keeps it simple,” said Rodriguez, who is expected to share playing time with Flores during the nonleague season before a decision is made before the opening of Montview League play. “He shows me (technique), which way to look. I like the way he coaches. (He’s showing) me how to play quarterback.”
The Olympians also have a good supporting cast, which gives Zane many options. They include running backs Andrew Verrela and Roy Noriega and offensive linemen Alex Comacho and Eric Castaneda. The goal is to finish among the top four teams in the league and reach the playoffs.
“I hope I can provide them with a little of my experience,” Zane said. “I’ll be helping at game time. I’ll be in the (press box) and maybe I can see some things on the field that they didn’t before. That’s what I bring most.
“I want to try and keep it simple. If we are strong enough, we will. But if not, we’ll have to mix it up and hopefully we make fewer mistakes than (the opposition).”
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