The nomadic life of a basketball coach and a desire to be closer to some of his children and grandchildren led Vance Walberg back to the school that helped launch his career into the college and professional ranks.
Walberg was approved as Clovis West High’s boys basketball coach during a Clovis Unified School Board meeting Wednesday, returning to the program where he went 343-68 between 1990-2002, according to Central Section historian Bob Barnett, while introducing his innovative dribble drive motion offense. He met his perspective players and their parents and answered questions during an introductory meeting Thursday in the Golden Eagles gym.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do is be a basketball coach, and I’ve had the chance to do it in college and the NBA,” Walberg said. “Now the timing and everything worked out (to return to Clovis West) for a couple of reasons. No. 1 is always family. My son (Ian) and daughter (Heather) are in town, and some grandkids.
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“The opportunity to come back to Clovis West has been on my mind because Clovis Unified is, without a doubt, the best I’ve seen not only in this state but throughout the country. They do a great job of giving students the chance to reach for their dreams, whether it’s basketball, football, band, drama or academics. It’s a great place to work.”
The 60-year-old Walberg returns to the high school level after spending most of the past four seasons as an assistant in the NBA. He was fired in February by the Sacramento Kings – a move that coach George Karl said left him “disappointed and confused.” Walberg also was an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets.
Clovis West reached out in May after Tom Orlich stepped down as the Golden Eagles coach to become an assistant at Stanford. Orlich went 311-99 with three section titles in 14 seasons after replacing Walberg.
“When Tom left, we were very happy and excited for him, but the next day it was, ‘Oh gosh, now I have to find a high quality coach at the end of May,’ ” Clovis West athletic director Matt Loggins said. “We were scouring the Western U.S. for the right fit because it’s a great job. And being that Vance wasn’t retained in Sacramento, it was a no-brainer to reach out and plant the seed. Once Vance said this was something he thought he wanted to do, the process got going and we were able to finalize it.
“We’re very excited to have him. Vance is great for our campus and great for our boys basketball program. In getting to know him, you can see he has that ‘it’ factor. A lot of the programs we have here are successful because of our feeder programs, and he kind of took that to a higher level when he was here before. To get him back on campus to not only work with our kids, but also with our coaches to show them how to build a successful program, as an athletic director, I’m stoked about that.”
All I’ve ever wanted to do is be a basketball coach, and I’ve had the chance to do it in college and the NBA. Now the timing and everything worked out (to return to Clovis West) for a couple of reasons. No. 1 is always family. My son (Ian) and daughter (Heather) are in town, and some grandkids. The opportunity to come back to Clovis West has been on my mind because Clovis Unified is, without a doubt, the best I’ve seen not only in this state but throughout the country.
Vance Walberg, a former NCAA Division I coach and NBA assistant hired Wednesday for a second stint in charge of Clovis West High boys basketball
Walberg and wife Rose are relocating to Fresno, where they will be close to two of their four children and two of their soon-to-be four grandchildren after spending the past 10 years moving from Malibu to Boston to Denver to Philadelphia to Sacramento.
Son Ian Walberg and daughter Heather Long, who has two children and is the girls basketball coach at Clovis North, both settled in the area. Walberg’s son Jason lives in Phoenix, and daughter Jaimie Rose Winder, who has one child and another on the way, is in Seattle.
“I moved our family down here when I was 33, and of all the places I’ve coached, I’ve always considered Fresno my home because that’s where my kids grew up,” said Walberg, whose children were 5, 4, 2 and 1 at the time he took the job at Clovis West in 1990 after 11 years as a high school coach in his native Bay Area. “Wow, how fast time goes by. It’s nice to be home.”
Known for an up-tempo offense commonly referred to as the Memphis Attack after it was implemented by former Memphis and current Kentucky coach John Calipari, Walberg won 11 league and eight section titles during his first 13 seasons at Clovis West.
But championships in 1999 and 2000 were stripped by the section because of the Golden Eagles’ use of Charlie Rodriguez, an overage player who arrived in Fresno from the Dominican Republic in September 1998 with a forged birth certificate indicating he was a 15-year-old freshman when he was actually 19.
Walberg moved on in 2002 to coach at Fresno City College, where his teams went 133-11 with four Central Valley Conference titles and a California Community College championship in four seasons. He was twice named the state’s community college Coach of the Year.
Walberg got his first NCAA Division I coaching opportunity in 2006 when he was hired at Pepperdine. The Waves went 8-23 in Walberg’s first season and were 6-12 when he resigned midway into his second citing health reasons. Walberg returned in 2008 as an assistant at UMass, where he stayed for two seasons before getting his first NBA job.
“I feel like I have a good 10 years left in me,” Walberg said. “I won’t make any promises because you never know what will happen. A year ago, I thought I’d help open the new arena in Sacramento. But things happen. I will just take it year by year, and the people who know me know I will bust my butt and give it the best I have.”