Encouraging words about teamwork that rang true

Nearly 50 years ago this week, my Paly High basketball team won an unforgettably taut South Peninsula Athletic League title game in a packed gym against a strong Sequoia High team led by future Golden State Warrior Charles Johnson.

Those memories came flooding back in recent days as I mourned the passing on Feb. 3 of my beloved coach, Clem Wiser -- a great man on the court and an even greater man off the court.

Coach Wiser's numbers speak for themselves -- winningest coach in Paly history with 401 victories and nine league titles. And of course, coaching us to a 70-68 win over Sequoia in the 1967 league title game.

But the truest number for Coach Wiser's impact is on the hundreds of Vikings players he coached for nearly three decades at Paly.

In fact, what I remember most about that 1967 season was how Coach Wiser -- a soft-spoken son of rural Kentucky who would lean back calmly on the bench during games and casually throw a roll of tape in the air-- always focused on boosting the confidence of players who were not the team's stars.

Those confidence boosts paid huge dividends in that 70-68 victory when Mark Daley hit the two pressure-packed free throws in the final seconds for the win.

Throughout that magical season, Coach Wiser and his assistant coach Ken White never discouraged my then-ridiculous NBA dreams.

Instead, they encouraged lessons of hard work and teamwork I have carried for a lifetime -- from my post-law school days leading the Gray Panthers in our fight for senior citizens to my current job in the U.S. Senate trying to find common ground.

I kept in touch with my old coach over the years and was fortunate to catch up with him in person just a couple years back when the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing at my alma mater with Silicon Valley tech leaders to discuss mass surveillance and the digital economy.

I recalled for a few minutes at the start of that hearing how fans were standing three- and four-deep for that 1967 game. And I reminisced with Vikings pride how Coach Wiser remains the gold standard for teaching basketball players on and off the court -- and for always being available to help all of us with his advice and good counsel.

Predictably, Coach Wiser sat humbly in the back of the gym as I showered him with deserved praise that prompted loud applause from all those there that October day who loved this man.

As I think back on that special moment when I got to thank my coach and role model for all he meant in my life, I think about two phrases associated with athletics' long-standing impact.

One of those phrases is that "sports builds character." More hard-bitten types have tweaked that phrase to say "sports reveals character."

In my treasured experience with Coach Wiser, I learned that both phrases are true.

Playing for him built the character of all of us who had that honor of knowing him and who will always revere him. And every moment spent with Coach Wiser revealed his character as an extraordinary man.


Like this comment
Posted by Brian
a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2017 at 4:17 pm

I enjoyed rethinking my High School years at Los Altos High School. Makes me wish that I had played a sport.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Fu Lam Mum shutters temporarily in Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 6 comments | 3,565 views

How Does Silicon Valley’s Culture Affect Your Marriage?
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,011 views


Best Of Palo Alto ballot is here

It's time to decide what local business is worthy of the title "Best Of Palo Alto" — and you get to decide! Cast your ballot online. Voting ends May 29th. Stay tuned for the results in the July 21st issue of the Palo Alto Weekly.