Steve Mosher and Terry Giffen, the two most successful water polo coaches in Central Section history, probably should be mortal enemies.
After all, Mosher grew up on the Stanford campus, his father a chemistry professor at the university.
Giffen, meanwhile, is as big a fan of rival Cal as you’ll find, having gone to nearly all of the Golden Bears’ home football games and many of their away games with his father as a youth.
And for the past 33 years, they have been coaching adversaries, including the past 20 for rival high schools: Mosher at Clovis West and Giffen at Clovis.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Fresno Bee
But there is no animosity between men who have matched coaching wits in 97 games over the years, possibly for the final time Wednesday when Giffen’s Cougars won their regular-season finale 10-5 over Mosher’s Golden Eagles.
Mosher and Giffen are both retiring after their respective teams’ postseason runs this season. Seedings for the section’s three boys and girls divisions will be announced Friday, with the playoffs beginning Nov. 12.
“When we get to the pool, it’s very competitive. We train our kids hard,” said Mosher, who has a 51-46 edge in their head-to-head matchups. “But I have a tremendous amount of respect for Terry, and love him like a brother.”
When we get to the pool, it’s very competitive. We train our kids hard. But I have a tremendous amount of respect for Terry, and love him like a brother.
Clovis West boys water polo coach Steve Mosher on Clovis counterpart Terry Giffen, who are both retiring at the end of the season.
Giffen, who coached Clovis West in its first two seasons before Mosher’s arrival, is so fond of his rival that he jokingly refers to Mosher as dad. Giffin is 59; Mosher 61.
“Our friendship came out of the respect we have for each other,” Giffen said.
Their friendship developed in the early 1980s when they joined forces to launch the Clovis Water Polo Club, the first organization of its kind in the area for water polo.
It initially brought together players from Mosher’s and Giffen’s high school teams for offseason training designed to develop athletes to compete with the best from Southern California.
“That was an awesome time for both of us,” Giffen said. “We had a great time coaching in the summers together.”
The Clovis Water Polo Club grew to feature players from as far north as Madera and south as Tulare on teams that made noise at the national level, finishing third at the Junior Olympics in 1984 and winning the national JO championship in 1988.
“Terry and I worked very hard to bring it up and make it competitive,” Mosher said. “We sent a lot of kids off to colleges and had good times with it.”
As high school coaches, Mosher and Giffen have combined for more than 1,500 wins and 23 section titles in careers that span 37 and 35 years, respectively, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
Mosher is 795-355-1 with 14 section titles and 10 runner-up finishes, all at Clovis West. Giffen is 746-266-1 with nine section titles and 10 runner-up finishes for Clovis West (1977-78), Hoover (1983-94) and Clovis (1995-2015), Barnett said.
23 Conbined Central Section boys water polo titles won by retiring coaches Steve Mosher of Clovis West and Terry Giffen of Clovis
A Mosher- or Giffen-coached team has played in each of the past 31 section finals. They’ve gone head-to-head in section finals 11 times, with Mosher holding a 7-4 edge.
“I can’t imagine any two coaches ever coming into the aquatics world and shaping it like they did, or have the impact on our area like they have,” said 15-year official Jahn Trutna, who played for Giffen during his time at Hoover and for Mosher with the Clovis Water Polo Club. “Steve is very cerebral and Terry is more of an in-your-face coach. But the relationships they have with kids is second to none. And because of that, they teach the love of the game. That’s why so many of their ex-players continue to come back and give back to the sport.”
Beyond their wins and championships, a major source of pride for both are the former players who have gone on to coach or officiate the sport.
Giffen estimates he’s had nearly 100 ex-players who got into coaching or officiating over the years.
“If I have a true legacy, it’s that so many young men who played for me gave back to the sport in one way or another,” Giffen said.
If I have a true legacy, it’s that so many young men who played for me gave back to the sport in one way or another.
Clovis boys water polo coach Terry Giffen, who estimates roughly 100 former players have gone on to become coaches or officials
Mosher counts former U.S. women’s national team coach and current UC Irvine women’s coach Dan Klatt among his many former players who have contributed to the sport after high school.
“I didn’t get into (water polo) to make a name for myself or to get rich,” said Mosher, who also spent 10 seasons as Clovis West’s boys swimming coach, winning the school’s first section title in 1985. “I wanted to help develop the sport.
“Terry and I have talked about this a lot. How many kids play high school athletics and do not go on to play college ball? Probably about 95 percent. So my job as a coach isn’t to develop college players, but to develop good people. I want them to look back in five, 10 years and say ‘I had a great time and made a lot of friends playing water polo.’ That’s what I wanted to do. I’m here to mold young people into great people.”
Making student-athletes better people, as well as producing top water polo talent, will be the lasting legacies of Mosher and Giffen, according to Clovis West girls coach Scott Torosian, who played for Giffen and has been mentored by Mosher.
“They are the reason why Central Valley water polo is what it is today,” Torosian said. “They are two people who have taken water polo, and their love of water polo, and passed it on to other people.”