It is safe to say that Joe Guerrero wouldn’t have had to wait this long to reach 300 career coaching victories if he’d had more teams like this year’s version.
Guerrero, the former boys basketball coach at Waite and Clay, is in his fifth season at Bowsher and has the Rebels sitting at 17-2 and ranked 10th in the state in Division I. The Rebels, who have scored more than 100 points in a game eight times this season, improved to 8-1 in the City League with Tuesday night’s 89-86 win over Rogers.
“This team plays together exceptionally well,” Guerrero said. “The system we’re running fits this team better than any other team I’ve had. We are athletic, we are fast and we can shoot. We shoot a lot of threes. We get up and down the floor and we press. We’re pretty much doing the same thing we did my first year at Clay. We scored 110 points that year against Bedford, and Bedford was pretty good.”
Guerrero, in his 27th season as a head coach, earned career win No. 300 on Feb. 7 in a 105-80 home win over Waite. The irony was not lost on Guerrero that he reached that milestone against the Indians.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” he said. “I graduated from Waite and coached there and really enjoyed it. I had a feeling it could happen that night and I was excited.”
Guerrero had a 77-70 record at Waite from 1987-1994 and then went 158-163 at Clay from 1994-2009. He is 67-36 at Bowsher, for a career mark of 302-269.
Guerrero, who is in his 20th year as a teacher at Clay, resigned at the Eagles’ head coach in March 2009, citing the need to get away from basketball. He said he realized that he and the program needed to go in a new direction. The coaching bug, however, bit him right after he left.
“I realized I wasn’t ready to stop coaching,” Guerrero said. “Bowsher had struggled for a lot of years. They just decided to hire a new coach, and Dick Crowell (former Bowsher coach) called me and said, ‘Would you be interested in coaching at Bowsher? Why don’t you think about applying?’ I applied and I got hired.”
How did that sit with his family, particularly his wife, Donna?
“They were glad,” Guerrero said. “They knew I still wanted to coach. The last couple years things really didn’t work out at Clay. We all decided to move in a different direction.”
Guerrero took over the Rebels’ program in 2009-10 and he’s never looked back. Fast forward to two weeks ago, when Guerrero realized he was approaching his 300th win.
“I told my daughter, Dana,” he said. “I didn’t really plan on telling anybody. I’ve been coaching a long time, and sooner or later I was going to get to 300. Dana is a daddy’s girl and she told quite a few people on Facebook and Twitter. Since then it’s been tons of calls and emails and messages.
“The thing I’m proud of is, I’ve coached at three great schools that really don’t have a lot of tradition for basketball. The year before I got the Waite job, they were 0-21. My first team went 4-17, and by the fourth year we were 19-4 and (ranked) fourth in the state.”
Guerrero’s son, Joe Jr., 33, is an assistant coach at Bowsher and has been “on the bench for 99 percent of my games since I started coaching,” said Guerrero, whose brother, Gil, is the head boys coach at Start.
Guerrero said his 300th win was accompanied by an announcement in the gym after the game, followed by interviews with local TV stations.
“Dana made sure to contact each one,” he said. “We had a cake in the cafeteria and quite a few people were there. It was really neat. I appreciate our athletic director, Terry Reeves, and Dana for organizing that.”
Guerrero said he plans to continue to coach for a while, and he looks back on his career with many fond memories.
“This is really about the players more than anything,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to have some great players at Waite, Clay and Bowsher. Great people, too. Some of my best friends came from being a basketball coach. I’m still enjoying it.”