Jorge Calienes stands under a basket at the Bosco Tech gym. In front of him 12-year-old summer basketball campers struggle through a layup drill. Above hang bright yellow and black banners, testaments to his coaching success over the last 11 years:
1978 CIF "1-A" QUARTERFINALIST
1979 CIF "1-A" QUARTERFINALIST.
1980 SANTA FE LEAGUE CHAMPIONS
1983 CIF "4-A" SEMIFINALIST
1984 CIF "4-A" QUARTERFINALIST
1987 DEL REY LEAGUE CO-CHAMPION.
But Calienes, the former basketball coach at Bosco Tech, realizes that was the past. Ahead lies his greatest challenge.
These days, Calienes, 37, spends mornings coaching at the basketball camp at Bosco Tech. His afternoons are devoted to his new team, the East Los Angeles College Huskies.
There are no championship banners hanging in the gym at East L.A. The community college has endured 10 straight losing seasons and has not been in the playoffs for the same period. Last year the Huskies won four games and finished last in the Southern California Conference.
When Calienes arrived at Bosco Tech 11 years ago, the situation was similar to East L.A. now.
"The athletic program was practically nonexistent," said Bosco Tech Principal Joseph Aguanno, who arrived at Bosco Tech as a teacher in January, 1978. "We had teams, but sports finished a distant third behind technology and academics."
The school had not appeared in the playoffs for five years and had only five playoff victories in its history. The Techmen, now Tigers, reached the playoffs in each of Calienes' first three seasons and had five playoff victories, including the school's first Santa Fe League championship 1979. The Santa Fe League was in the lowest competitive division of the CIF. Bosco Tech now plays in the strong Del Rey League, which includes St. Bernard, Crespi and Loyola, this year's league champion. In Calienes' 11 years, his teams won 64% of their games.
With the exception of the 1983 team that included All--CIF performers Fred Valle, Richard Ruiz, Gil Verela and U.C. Irvine star Wayne Engelstad, Calienes' teams have not been overloaded with talent.
"His teams were always successful beyond their caliber," said Loyola Coach Bill Thomason. "It was always, 'They won more than they should've,' not 'They should've won more than they did.' They were always highly motivated and well prepared."
Indeed, Thomason's league-champion Cubs could manage only a split against third-place Bosco Tech. The Tigers squeaked into the playoffs this year for Calienes' ninth appearance in 11 years but lost to Bishop Amat in the first round.
Calienes, who played basketball at Alhambra High, began coaching grammar school teams in 1969 in the Alhambra Recreation Department as an 18-year-old. "But I knew I wanted to be a coach when I was a junior in high school. I coached my brother's grammar school team." He recalls the names of his grade-school champions as enthusiastically as Engelstad or his CIF semifinalists.
"George Rakovich would stay late every single day and work on his game," Calienes said in his office at Bosco Tech the other day, eyes beaming. "He was a great player--made All-CIF at Alhambra High and then went to USC-- big mistake! He should have gone to a school more suited to his style of play."
While coaching in Alhambra, Calienes founded the Alhambra Golden State Basketball Assn. and the Pacific Youth Basketball Assn. Golden State is the popular basketball version of Little League baseball, played in the San Gabriel Valley. The Pacific Youth organization established standards for all-star youth competition in Southern California, such as players' ages and length of games.
During his time in Alhambra, Calienes was working toward a degree in physical education at East Los Angeles College and Cal State L.A. One year at East L.A., Calienes took 44 units, about twice the normal workload, in order to get his associate of arts and move on to Cal State. "It was two years worth of work in one," said Calienes. "And I ended up with a 'B' average." He graduated in 1976 from Cal State.
Calienes must have grown accustomed to a feverish work pace, because after leaving the Alhambra Recreation Department and coaching sophomore basketball and junior varsity baseball at Alhambra High for a year, he became the head baseball and basketball coach and athletic director at Bosco Tech. He was 26 years old.
"When I got here there was no winning attitude, the kids were not fundamentally sound. There's a difference between doing drills and doing drills right. They were just doing drills."
This kind of discipline shows at the camp Calienes and his closest friend, Bill Nuanes, run at Bosco Tech. Everyone performs the same drills and Calienes treats the players alike. The campers range from 7-year-old girls who have barely touched a basketball to juniors in high school.
"It's the same game," says Calienes.