A two-against-two, basketball “friendly” could trigger some friendly fire from Santa Barbara High School coach Jack Trigueiro.
He hated losing, especially in a pickup game against his own players. It didn’t even matter if one of them was destined for the NBA.
“Bobby Thompson and I would always have to play him and coach (Dan) Heinrichs in a two-on-two situation,” Don Ford once said. “We’d always beat them, and coach Trigueiro would get so mad that he’d blame it on coach Heinrichs.”
The 6-foot Trigueiro took it so seriously that he’d switch men with the 6-foot-7 Heinrichs so he could guard Ford, a 6-foot-9 forward who would start for the Los Angeles Lakers barely five years later.
“He was so competitive,” Ford recalled, “that he’d rip our jerseys and play us tooth and nail.”
But that fire — so searing that it fused him into a championship coach in the sports of both basketball and tennis — was finally extinguished this week. Coach Trigueiro, who was born on Aug. 3, 1934, died Wednesday at age 88.
Trigueiro, who played basketball at UC Santa Barbara before graduating in 1960, loved to challenge his best high school players. They included future Basketball Hall of Famer Jamaal (Keith) Wilkes and Bob Verlaan during the 1969-1970 season — one year before his battles with Ford and Thompson.
“Jack was very intense,” Wilkes told me 25 years ago. “But I believe he was born to be a teacher and a coach.
“He challenged us and he was interested in winning games, no doubt about it. But he was also interested in developing responsible young people, which is something I didn’t realize until years later.”
Trigueiro posted a win-loss record of 240-90 while claiming five Channel League championships during his 14 seasons as Santa Barbara High’s basketball coach (1964-1978).
He won 31 more league crowns in 34 seasons of boys tennis (1965-1998) at the school. His reign included 10 CIF-Southern Section 4A championships during an 11-year run (1985-1995).
Sports Illustrated featured Trigueiro in its “Faces in the Crowd” segment during the fall of 1992. The Dons, it pointed out, were in the midst of a 110-match winning streak.
Two of his tennis players — his son, Tim, and the late Mike Falberg — both won U.S. Open junior singles championships. Tim and Cal-bound Alex Nizet led the 1985 team to Trigueiro’s first CIF championship. The coach’s eldest son, Rick, was a star football player, starting at tight end for Long Beach State during the mid-1980s.
Trigueiro is also survived by his wife, Sharon.
He was voted into the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Hall of Fame in 1999. He’s also been inducted into the Santa Barbara High School Hall of Fame and into the Santa Barbara Basketball Court of Champions.
Trigueiro’s competitiveness had been steeled on the mean streets of Bakersfield. Tim once confided to Steve Pratt of the U.S. Tennis Association that his dad had come “from a tough place.”
“Back then there were no weapons,” he said. “You just fought and it was kind of a sport, a skill.”
Trigueiro served two years in the Army after graduating from East Bakersfield High. He also played basketball at Bakersfield College and the College of Idaho before transferring to UCSB as a 25-year-old junior. He played guard for a Gauchos team that went 17-7 during the 1959-1960 season.
Don of a New Age
San Leandro High hired him out of UCSB to be its head basketball coach. Clarence Schutte, however, lured him back to Santa Barbara in the fall of 1964 to take over from head basketball coach Gene Snyder. The Dons’ athletic director liked filling his coaching staff with former Gauchos.
Three of Trigueiro’s basketball players — Vic Bartolome (Class of 1966), Wilkes (’70) and Ford (’71) — made it to the NBA.
Trigueiro may have been hard-boiled but he wasn’t hard-headed. He resisted an urge to change Wilkes’ unorthodox but accurate cork-screw shot after watching him in practice.
“He thought about it for five minutes or so and then decided against it,” Ford said. “That was probably smart.”
Lakers’ announcer Chick Hearn once described the unique jump shot as a “20-foot layup.” Wilkes, an All-American for two of UCLA’s NCAA championship teams, shot just under 50% during his NBA career.
The tandem of Wilkes and Ford led the 1969-1970 Dons to 26 consecutive wins and a No. 1 ranking in the CIF-SS poll. But the Dons were destined for an unlucky Friday the 13th playoff semifinal against Long Beach Millikan when Wilkes sprained his ankle badly that week in practice.
Trigueiro chose to remember that game fondly despite a 66-53 defeat. He appreciated the “toughness” that Wilkes showed by taking the court on one good leg. He was limited to 11 shots but still scored 17 points in the final game of his high school career.
“Jamaal hadn’t really been injured before in his career, so it was a new experience for him to try to play hurt,” he said. “But all he cared about was for us to win the CIF title. He didn’t care about Player of the Year or anything like that.
“It was unreal — probably the most gutsy performance I’ve ever seen, considering the circumstances and the level of play he had to try to reach.”
Millikan routed Monrovia 68-37 in the championship game the following day.
“If Jamaal had been healthy, we would have won it,” Trigueiro said. “I have no doubt about that.”
Trigueiro inspired several of his former players to enter the coaching profession. They included a bench-warmer off a team that was ranked No. 1 in the state for part of the 1975-1976 season.
Andy Butcher returned to the school just a few years later to take charge of the girls basketball program with former teammate Scott Blakey. Butcher will soon begin his 41st season as its head coach.
“It was a pretty phenomenal team,” Butcher said of the 1975-1976 Dons. “Scott and I got to sit in the best seats in the house and learn a lot from coach Trigueiro.”
Schutte added the varsity tennis team to Trigueiro’s duties in the spring of 1965. He also had him help with the football and baseball programs.
Trigueiro hung up his basketball whistle to focus solely on tennis when Tim approached his teenage years in the late 1970s. He soaked up knowledge on the sport from the pros who tutored his son, beginning with Larry Mousouris. Legendary pro Pancho Segura took Tim under his wing a few years later.
“My dad was able to take in a lot from Pancho,” Tim said.
His father’s approach to coaching, he said, was like that of “a mad scientist.”
“Everything that he had learned in basketball he then in turn used it in tennis,” Tim said.
Trigueiro the Taskmaster kept his Dons — many of them country-club kids — on their toes at all times. They called him a drill sergeant in tennis shoes.
“We play hard on this team all of the time,” he said during their CIF title run of 1991. “There’s no time for comedy out there on the court. I won’t tolerate it.”
His structure for success became a magnet for the South Coast’s top young tennis talent.
“He’s tough and everyone knows that,” Greg Peus said during the CIF championship season of 1991. “But everyone also wants to play on this team. It’s the goal of all the junior players in the area.”
Those who threw a racket or a curse word, or showed poor sportsmanship to an opponent, would be penalized with mandatory push-ups.
“Our kids compete well and they treat their opponents with respect,” Trigueiro once said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The fire of coach Trigueiro wound up serving Santa Barbara High School just as well as a guiding light.
— Noozhawk sports columnist Mark Patton is a longtime local sports writer. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook. The opinions expressed are his own.