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Burbank Trying to Serve Up a Farewell Gift for Richards


The memories have piled up over the years along with the Foothill League championships.

Clyde Richards, in his 15th and final season as boys' tennis coach at Burbank High, has guided the Bulldogs to 13 consecutive Foothill titles.

He can recall the big victories. And each loss, which isn't difficult. There have been only two.

"Both to Alhambra, one in 1989 and one in 1990," Richards said.

"I even remember the date of the last one, April 17, both by 11-7 scores. One of them we should have lost, one of them we shouldn't have."

The Bulldogs, 126-2 in league play the last 13 years, are trying to climb to the top of the mountain in the Southern Section Division II playoffs.

"We want to go far in [the playoffs] for Coach," said Chris Lau, the No. 3 singles player. "He has such a legacy at Burbank. You actually know what he says works."

Burbank (19-2) will play Fullerton Troy in a quarterfinal Tuesday.

"Especially with the seniors, we know it's our last year and Coach's last year," said Eugene Shin, who plays No. 1 doubles and is co-captain with Lau. "We have a lot of incentive,"

Richards intended to make the 1999 season his last, announcing his retirement last spring because of health problems. But after treatment for skin cancer and the removal of an unrelated tumor in his back, the 61-year-old coach received clearance from doctors to come back.

He'll also retire from teaching math and economics.

"It's really special for me to be out there," Richards said. "I only came back for the seniors. I've had them since they were ninth-graders and we'd grown quite close.

"It was almost like a promise to them. It was nice to be able to come back and finish what I'd started."

What he started, and what the Bulldogs have continued, is a winning tradition. Burbank reached the semifinals in 1996 and won the Division III title in 1993.

No. 1 player Tigran Martirosyan (53-1), a junior, won the league singles title.

Another junior, Shara Surabi, went unbeaten in league play and was runner-up to Martirosyan.

"Hopefully, if we play well, there's not too many teams out there that can beat us," said the California-bound Shin, who teamed with senior Min Kang to win the Foothill doubles title.

The squad is a far cry from the 1985 team that went 0-18 the year before Richards took over.

"When I saw the team that first day [in 1986], they were just terrible," Richards said. "There were 12 kids and I cut 10 of them.

"I think I've done all I can do. We've built quite a program here. I've really enjoyed spending the time with the kids. Every day now, I know it's my last few days and I've really tried to enjoy them."


Senior Mike Smith is an unsung player for Crespi, enjoying every match in a way he never did during U.S. Tennis Assn. junior tournaments.

The Celts' No. 2 singles player differs from most of the region's top competitors by giving priority to the high school season.

"I just love the high school scene and playing in the team competitions," Smith said. "I love playing with others and for others."

He has done well for the Celts (17-4), seeded No. 1 in the Division V playoffs. Smith has a 58-2 record in sets.

"He can play," Crespi Coach Jeff Cortez said. "This guy plays every match, and he's improved every year."

Smith hopes to improve enough to make the men's team at Notre Dame next year.

"The way I'm playing right now and with how hard I'm going to work this summer, I know I'll make it," he said.


St. Bonaventure (12-4) went unbeaten in Tri-Valley League play for the third consecutive season and its success has continued in the Division V playoffs.

The Seraphs have been led by junior John Vigorita, sophomore Sean Callaghan--the top two singles players--and the No. 1 doubles team of Vik Tiku and Todd Kinsling.

"We're just good enough to give people some trouble," Coach Tim Ambler said.

Vigorita (43-2) won the Tri-Valley singles title.

Callaghan is 29-7, and Tiku and Kinsling are 30-0.

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