Steve Dann posted a record of 44-14 the past 5 seasons at Santa Clara High, the best among Ventura County football coaches. For this achievement, Dann received not a dime more from his employer--nor did he expect more. Success is not reflected on the paycheck of a high school coach.
Dann resigned as coach last week to sell insurance. Should he sell more insurance than any agent in the county, he'll make the money of 5 high school coaches.
That is the logic behind Dann's decision, at age 31, to leave a profession he loves, to leave a team that will return the most accurate passer in state history.
It is a logic that became inescapable for a young coach with a family and a mortgage living in a region where the teaching salary at a private school ensured only that his wife had to work for the family to make ends meet. Dann hopes to reach a point where his wife, Joyce, is able to leave her job with the United Way and become a full-time homemaker and mother to the couple's 19-month-old son Kevin.
"Financially, it's tough to be a coach," said Dann, who teaches algebra at Santa Clara. Dann is reluctant to discuss his leaving because he doesn't want the decision to reflect badly on Santa Clara, for which he has great admiration and loyalty.
And in fact, Dann's resignation says nothing about Santa Clara in particular, but with coaching and teaching in general. Can high schools, especially private schools, retain the best and brightest young coaches?
The Santa Clara players have no trouble understanding why Dann is leaving.
Said All-County lineman Jim Caballero: "He wanted to make more money."
Said All-County lineman JR Perez: "He wanted get settled financially."
Said All-County quarterback Tim Gutierrez: "He needs a better job."
So, after leading the Saints to a .759 winning percentage and 2 Frontier League titles, Dann searched for a financial frontier to conquer.
He didn't have to look far.
Dan Dolby, who worked as an assistant to Dann for 5 of the past 7 years, had a lucrative insurance business in Oxnard. And he had built the business to a point where he had time to coach.
"For somebody such as myself, it has worked out well," Dolby said. "It affords the opportunity to do other things."
As for Dann, Dolby says, "He'll do very well in our business."
Perez, a two-way starting lineman, admired the work ethic of his coach.
"He never quit coaching until the last play," Perez, a senior, said. "We'd be ahead by 25 points with a minute left and he'd keep coaching. When the second and third string were in, he wouldn't stop coaching then, either."
But when the Santa Clara's 11-1 season ended in a playoff loss at Woodbridge, Dann stopped coaching for good.
Dann's situation has striking similarities to that of Crespi High Coach Bill Redell, who quit in December to sell insurance full time. Dann believes that the principles that make a successful coach also make a successful businessman.
"Good coaches have big egos because you take pride in what you do. The same attitude works in business," he said. "The nature of sales is competitive. I like to compete, to be the best."
This could be wrapped up neatly as the sound decision of a pragmatic young man, except that . . .
"I put my heart and soul into that team," Dann said.
The emotional aspect of football--the camaraderie, euphoria and ruggedness--will be missed.
Can that be replaced by convincing someone to include an earthquake clause in their homeowners' policy?
Dolby is not sure. "Coaching is a love he'll never lose," he said. "Steve is good for kids and good for football."
Dann caught coaching fever from his father, the late Jerry Dann.
After a standout career as a 3-sport athlete at Fillmore High, Steve began coaching as an assistant under his father at St. Bonaventure High from 1979-81. Jerry Dann resigned in 1981 and Steve took the junior varsity team at Santa Clara the following year.
Jerry Dann died of cancer less than 2 years later, but the Dann coaching legacy lived on in his son.
"Steve's father was a very successful coach in the county and Steve has a tremendous love and admiration for his father," Dolby said. "A lot of decisions he's made, I think, come from trying to emulate his father. His dad was successful and Steve has an overwhelming desire to even be better."
The desire to coach has given way to a desire to provide the best for his family. But he wants both and intends to return to coaching once he is financially stable.
"I'm not going to stay out of coaching too long," he said. "Coaching adds a lot to life."