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Jesus Gonzales: from bean counter to Vincent High athletic director

June 30, 2002|By RICHARD MONTENEGRO, Sports Editor

Calexico — Three years ago coach Jesus Gonzales walked into the first day of teacher orientation at Vincent Memorial High School here, picked up his schedule of varsity basketball games and noticed two games were scheduled for the same day.

Gonzales said he marched up to school administrators and told them about the scheduling snafu. He was told to deal with it.

"‘But I'm not the athletic director,' I told them," the 32-year-old Gonzales remembers.

"They said, ‘You are now.'"

A teacher and coach at Vincent since 1993, Gonzales' list of responsibilities continues to grow. In addition to serving as A.D., he teaches accounting, physical education and coaches the varsity basketball and softball teams as well as the cross country team.

But it's all in a day's work for this 1987 Vincent grad, who lettered in basketball and baseball.

"I'm learning something new every day," said Gonzales. "It's been interesting.

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"I thought I had it hard coaching basketball and listening to parents (complain)," he joked. "Now as athletic director, you have 20 different sports and 20 different problems.

"It's difficult trying to please everybody," he added.

Gonzales credits former Imperial High School A.D. Mike Swearingen and former Holtville High A.D John Reschert with helping him in his first three years. He said both men always made themselves available to answer any questions he might have had.

Gonzales added Vincent's Dennis Jacobelli and former Vincent A.D. Victor Carrillo also helped him greatly.

Meanwhile, the Vincent Scots just finished what may have been the school's most successful year as far as sports goes.

"I think six of our nine teams made the playoffs last season," Gonzales said. "Girls basketball made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years and girls softball made the playoffs for the first time ever."

Two of last season's biggest success stories came out of the football and boys basketball program.

The varsity basketball squad, headed up last year by Gonzales and Jacobelli, made the CIF San Diego Section Division 5 quarterfinals, while the 3-year-old football team made the Division 5 semifinals.

It's no surprise that Vincent's football and tennis teams do so well against their Imperial Valley League and Citrus League competition, according to Gonzales.

He explained many of Vincent's students come from Mexicali, where many children who can afford to do so grow up playing American football and tennis, and are schooled in the fundamentals of both. He added it's when students take up basketball, cross country, volleyball and other sports that the learning curve gets a tad steep.

He's also in the unique position of being head of the sports program for the Valley's only private school competing in CIF-sanctioned sports, often against school's three, four, five times larger than Vincent.

With that unique position, Gonzales said he has to work through a unique set of problems.

Finding facilities, coaches and athletes are some of Gonzales' biggest issues.

"I don't have any facilities," he said.

Hidden away on Sheridan Avenue in the western end of Calexico, Vincent has only had its own gymnasium since 1987. The school still has no football or baseball fields.

"The Calexico Recreation Department lends us the baseball field across the street from the school," he said. "But it's shared with all the teams from Willie Moreno (Junior High) and Pop Warner."

Gonzales said the coaching carousel at Vincent is improving, but he still needs to find coaches who want to stay for extended periods.

He said stability will only help his teams. In the 2000-2001 school year the Scot baseball team went through four coaches in one season and went 0-24. Last season, with one coach, the team improved to 7-13.

As for students: "Sometimes just finding enough kids to play a sport can be a challenge."

With slightly more than 210 students enrolled — 60 percent female, 40 percent male — Gonzales said about 30 percent compete in sports.

"And each athlete plays at least four sports," he said, adding some student athletes have to decide what team gets their priority on any given day.

Still, Gonzales said he's pretty well got a handle on things.

A 1991 graduate of the University of San Diego with a bachelor's degree in accounting, Gonzales didn't start out with dreams of being an athletic director.

For many years, he did the books for the family business, a restaurant equipment supplier in Calexico. After Sam's Club and the peso devaluation his family was forced to close up shop.

He slowly entered into coaching, then working for the school.

Said Gonzales of his former calling: "At least it helps me with the budgets."

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