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A fond farewell to Glenwood Springs hoops coach Bob Chavez

Jon Mitchell
jmitchell@postindependent.com
Former Glenwood Springs High School boys basketball coach Bob Chavez has enjoyed retirement since stepping away from teaching and coaching full time in 1989. Now, Chavez and his wife of 58 years, Shirley, live in Mesa, Arizona, full time but have returned to Glenwood every summer since 1997.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The list of names that Bob Chavez could remember from the time he coached boys basketball at Glenwood Springs High School is a pretty long one.

Among those names were Tom and Mike Vidakovich, Rick Sorenson, Mike Matheny, Kevin Flohr, Scott Bolitho and Rick Ecker. Others included Bruce Vanderhoof, Jerry Law, Kurt Lyons, Scott Balcomb and Steve Beatty.

“Every one of the players you coach become one of your own kids,” said Chavez, who coached the Demons for 30 years until his retirement in 1989. “You love these kids, and you always want what’s best for them.”

His name is now forever etched on the wall at Glenwood Springs High’s gym. It’s now named Chavez/Spencer Gymnasium for him and Harlan Spencer, who was the school’s first girls basketball coach.

The longtime coach got a lot out of all of the players over the three decades that he walked the Demons’ bench. He compiled an overall record of 477-161, which included state championships in 1975, 1979 and 1984. His teams made it to the eight-team state tournament 19 times, finished as the runner-up four times and claimed three consolation championships. During the 30 years he coached, he only had one sub-.500 season. The Demons almost won back-to-back titles twice, finishing second in 1974 and 1985.

He was inducted into the Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame in 2002, which came five years after Chavez and his wife of 58 years, Shirley, sold their Glenwood Springs house and moved to Mesa, Arizona. Every summer, however, Bob and Shirley have a lot at Amy’s Acres campground in Glenwood where they park their fifth-wheel mobile home and stay for the summer.

GETTING HIS CHANCE

Chavez grew up in Trinidad and attended Pueblo Junior College, followed by a stint at Western State in Gunnison. His first coaching gig out of college was at Avondale near Pueblo, where he coached junior high football and basketball. His full desire, however, was to coach at the varsity high school level.

One of the first coaching jobs he applied for fresh out of college in 1956 was in Rangely, but he received a rejection letter, which said they were looking for someone with more experience. Then, when the head coaching job at Avondale opened, he never received an interview.

So, he quit and came to Glenwood as a freshman boys basketball coach and a fifth-grade teacher. When he was hired, he told former superintendent Lucian Allen he would like to have a shot at the head coaching job if Bob Daniels, who coached football, basketball and track and field, were to ever give up basketball.

Daniels did that a year later, and Allen and two members of the school board paid Chavez a visit at the trailer where he, Shirley and his two oldest children, Rob and Shelly, lived.

“I told my wife they were probably coming up to fire me,” Chavez joked.

Instead, they offered him the head coaching job at Glenwood, which had an enrollment of roughly 150 students and had recently converted from being Garfield County High School. And in his first season, thanks to players like Charlie Stewart and Tom Turner, the Demons lost only three games that season.

“I guess the good Lord must have been looking out for me or something,” Chavez said.

POSITIVE APPROACH

Former players and coaches always marveled at how enthusiastic he was when he coached on the sideline.

Mike Vidakovich, who was a senior on Glenwood’s state title-winning team in 1979, talked about how Chavez would love it when opposing teams would call a timeout following a big scoring run by the high-octane offense the Demons ran under Chavez.

“He was always animated,” Vidakovich said. “And, on top of that, he never really yelled at us. When we got on a roll and the other team would call timeout, he would run halfway out onto the court with his fists clenched in the air and greet us. That pumped us up even more.”

Chavez admitted that one of his primary coaching assets was his ability to motivate, and his excitable nature was a key component of that.

One coach who noticed Chavez’s positivity is a former Denver Nuggets coach and current member of the Basketball Hall of Fame: Larry Brown.

Brown sat on press row and watched the Demons play Denver Christian for the 1979 AA state title at old McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, when Glenwood triumphed 80-62 and completed the Demons’ only unbeaten season at 23-0. After the game, the Nuggets coach was more than complimentary about Chavez’s coaching style.

“I still have the recording at home (in Arizona) somewhere,” Chavez said. “He said to the radio guy, and I can’t remember it word for word, but he said, ‘If I could coach with the same enthusiasm and the love for his kids like that coach from Glenwood Springs does, I would love to do that someday.’ That made me feel really good.”


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