When Guy Anderson walked onto the Cordova High School campus as a charter member in 1963, he had jet-black hair and practically sprinted from class to class.
On Friday afternoon, he left that same campus, perhaps for the final time, after 52 years at the school, including 45 as varsity baseball coach. Despite winning 927 games – second most in state history – Anderson, 82, was fired.
Anderson said he was told by principal Dan Anklam the program was “going in a different direction” and the decision was influenced by concern from parents over his treatment of players.
This year, Cordova was 6-21 overall and 1-14 in the Sierra Valley Conference, Anderson’s worst season.
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“Just got fired and never thought I’d say that,” Anderson said shortly after meeting with Anklam. “Forty-five years, a lot of good times, won a ton of league championships, including last year, and then this. I was the athletic director there for 26 years, a teacher forever.
“I’m hurt. No doubt about it. Very hurt.”
Anderson said he was given an option to resign during the meeting or be terminated as an at-will, year-to-year contracted coach, since he had retired from teaching and being athletic director years ago. He said he wasn’t ready to resign on the spot, though he had considered retirement much of the season.
The firing ends one of the remarkable careers in Sac-Joaquin Section coaching history that included Hall of Fame inductions on the national and regional levels. Under Anderson, Cordova featured some of the region’s best teams and players. The Lancers were a power in the 1970s, ’80s and into the early ’90s, winning five section titles.
Cordova’s attendance has dwindled, and the school had only a varsity team this season due to the lack of interest.
Anderson said he felt Cordova’s administration and disgruntled parents blamed him for the low participation and didn’t want an old-school coach.
“The principal never went to a single practice and maybe went to one game,” Anderson said. “You don’t win 927 games by abusing kids, being mean to kids. I’m tough, yes, but always have been. Those who wanted me out, I’m sure they’re happy.”
Elk Grove baseball coach Jeff Carlson played against Anderson’s teams in the mid 1980s while at Christian Brothers, and he said he has admired Anderson for years.
“To me, it’s very troubling and upsetting,” Carlson said. “All the life lessons to all those players over the decades, and to be let go. I don’t know everything that’s going on over there, but Guy Anderson has been a great role model with his enthusiasm, his dedication. Huge level of respect for him and what he’s done. He’s in the upper tier of all-time great high school coaches in this country.”
Anklam wasn’t available for comment Friday, but Dan Thigpen, the public information officer for the Folsom Cordova Unified School District, said Anderson’s dismissal was tied to several factors.
Thigpen acknowledged there were concerns among parents that Anderson’s old-school ways were too harsh.
“Coach Anderson has built a legacy program with an immeasurable impact on countless young athletes, and no one disputes any of that,” Thigpen said. “We don’t want that to be lost in all of this. This is a difficult one because Guy is a very public figure, but this is a personnel matter. We had concerns from families about the treatment of players, the coaching style.
“Beyond that, we need to get numbers back up and start putting pieces in place to rebuild the program.”
Anderson said he removed players from the team who didn’t give enough effort and others quit because they didn’t want to accept losing or postgame discussions about accountability and leadership. The roster was down to 11 players at the end of the season.
Riley Robson was one of the players suspended from the team, and he and his mother, Jacquelyn Ratkowski Robson, spoke to the district board Thursday night to express their concerns about Anderson.
Jacquelyn Ratkowski Robson said she confronted Anderson during a practice last month after learning about her son’s suspension from the team. She admitted to cursing at Anderson, and she said she apologized to the parents of other players. But she did not apologize to Anderson.
“I felt, and other parents felt, that Anderson was belittling and degrading the players, and I did go to the school and board with a complaint,” Jacquelyn Ratkowski Robson said. “I’m all for stern coaching, but there’s a line between being a bully and stern. I feel there’s been a huge weight lifted off the program. It’s saddening that a great coach is gone, and I get that. I’ll be the first to say that. But I’m not crying that he’s been fired. I don’t feel his pain.”
Anderson said he might immerse himself in activities with wife, Karen, including bike rides, wine tasting, baseball visits across the country and competing in as many as four senior softball games a week.
But, he said, he’ll miss baseball, “more than you know.”
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.