High School Sports

Another high school football coaching great gone: Remembering Larry Wyatt of Del Oro

Del Oro football coach Larry Wyatt, left, talks with quarterback Randy Fasani before practice on Nov. 21, 1995. Fasani said of Wyatt, who passed away Friday at 70, “He was a great husband, father, coach and mentor. So sad. We will all miss him dearly.” SACRAMENTO BEE/BRYAN PATRICK
Del Oro football coach Larry Wyatt, left, talks with quarterback Randy Fasani before practice on Nov. 21, 1995. Fasani said of Wyatt, who passed away Friday at 70, “He was a great husband, father, coach and mentor. So sad. We will all miss him dearly.” SACRAMENTO BEE/BRYAN PATRICK Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

Larry Wyatt was big on perspective, a theme that would provide a nice template of how to handle all manner of expectations for coaches in any era.

And Wyatt embraced a challenge. He didn’t just replace one famed coach at Del Oro High School in 1995, he took over for two.

When Bob Christiansen and John Fletcher stepped down as the Golden Eagles’ golden-touch co-coaches, Wyatt eagerly stepped in, once joking to me, “I’m either numb, dumb or just don’t realize what I’m getting into.”

Wyatt comes to mind for many folks in Placer County. He died unexpectedly Friday from heart failure while vacationing with family in Mexico. He was 70.

Wyatt was neither numb nor dumb. He was actually as sharp as he was charming, as fair as he was firm. The longtime Del Oro junior varsity coach, Wyatt took over as varsity coach and kept on winning, including the 1997 Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship. His face belongs on the Del Oro Mount Rushmore of greats, and it would be a grinning mug, his trademark expression.

Christiansen and Fletcher won 15 league and four section championships in their tour. Wyatt’s record at Del Oro from 1979 through 2001 as a JV and varsity head or co-head coach was 172-48-4 with 15 league championships. Wyatt was then on the hiring committee at Del Oro that selected Casey Taylor to take over before the 2002 season. Wyatt was also a mentor of sorts to Jeff Walters at Del Oro, now the Golden Eagles’ coach.

Wyatt remained a smiling fixture at Golden Eagles games right up through this past season, even helping coach the freshman team through the 2017 season. He was deeply involved in events throughout Placer County, having grown up in Lincoln. This was home.

He also loved Mexico. Wyatt and wife Kris, a longtime counselor at Lincoln High, regularly vacationed there, often with Del Oro principal Dan Gayaldo and wife Jill.

“This is crushing,” said Jill Gayaldo, who was elected to the Rocklin City Council in November. “Too many great coaches gone this year.”

The losses include Fletcher, who died at 68 from cancer in September.

Said Fletcher’s daughter, Heather, on Friday, “Breaks my heart, but I know he’s with my Dad calling plays.”

Del Oro’s greatest football player remains Randy Fasani, a national quarterback recruit to Stanford in the mid 1990s who played in the NFL. He’s now the coach at Ripon Christian High.

Said Fasani on Friday, “He was a great husband, father, coach and mentor. So sad. We will all miss him dearly.”

Wyatt explained to me in all sincerity 10 years ago that parents and boosters never got to him, though they can be loud in Loomis. There is never a shortage of zeal here.

“In all my years, I was lucky because I don’t remember any real complaints,” Wyatt said then. “Great parents, or I just didn’t hear it.”

He didn’t hear it because this was a man comfortable in his own skin and Del Oro colors. But he was also human.

On why he ultimately stepped away as a varsity coach, “It was time. I wasn’t happy with how I was dealing with stress. I went from a positive guy to a nitpicker. When I wasn’t having fun, I knew it was time to get out.”

But coaches are an odd lot. They don’t stay away for long. They need blocking and tackling and competition in their lives. He returned to assist the freshman team, saying in 2016, “Best job in the world: assistant coach. Coach, go home, no pressure. Just good living.”

Other area famed football coaches who have died in recent years include Dick Dichiara and Joe Miller of Delta, Erv Hatzenbuhler of Galt, Gerry Kundert of Mira Loma and Dick Sperbeck of Christian Brothers.

Funeral services for Wyatt are pending.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story identified the former Del Oro football coach who died last year as Larry Fletcher. The former coach who died in September was John Fletcher.

Joe Davidson has covered sports for The Sacramento Bee since 1988 and is award-winning authority on high school sports, specializing in going behind the scenes. Davidson was a high school athlete in Oregon, where he participated in football and track.
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