You would remember Katella High School's basketball coach, Tom Danley, if you saw him. Or heard him. Or heard someone who saw him.
He leaves that sort of indelible imprint, much like the sight of those 13 Empire, Crestview and Orange league championship banners hanging from the gym walls or the news that a Danley-coached team hasn't missed the playoffs in more than two decades.
Danley is special, all right. Maybe it's his Bobby Knight starter-set wardrobe in Katella's school colors, complete with polyester red jacket with brass buttons, black polyester slacks, white shirt and red power tie. Worse yet, Danley makes assistant Tom Voigt wear the same uniform during games. Together, they look as if they work aisles 5 and 6 of your local Ace Hardware store ("Penny nails, ma'am? Right over there, next to the garden hose.").
Others seem to remember Danley's forehead, which grows crimson, as if a child had taken a crayon to it, whenever his Katella team screws up. This season, his Katella team (3-7) tends to screw up a lot, which provides anxious spectators with a bonus view of what are commonly known on the Anaheim campus as Danley's "victory veins."
For those novices in the audience, this would be the vein equivalent of the Monongahela meeting the Ohio and Allegheny rivers. Except with Danley, it all happens on his forehead, like a living 3-D relief map.
My personal favorite is Danley's half-duck waddle, half-Edward G. Robinson imitation, which he performs mostly during timeouts. For a measly $2, the price of admission to the recent Katella Klassic, you could have seen it.
Here it is, Katella's own tournament, and the Knights are losing. They commit fouls as if a quota were in effect. They allow easy Servite layups. They refuse to take open 15-foot jump shots. At the end of the first quarter, they are trailing, 16-10, and Danley is furious, especially with one of his senior forwards.
This is not a light conversation. By now, Danley's face is as red as his jacket. The victory veins are working overtime. He is squatting in front of his team, looking one way but still muttering something about the play of that forward. Only the sound of the buzzer, which marks the start of the second quarter, ends Danley's lecture. "All right," he says. "Here we go now. C'mon!"
Danley hitches his pants and returns to his seat on the bench. In the next few minutes, he sees Katella fall behind by 8, then 10, then 12, then 13 points. He buries his head in his hands but looks up in time to see Katella miss another shot.
"I've never seen anybody choke so much in my damn life," he says to no one in particular. "If anybody had told me I'd have a team like this, I wouldn't have believed it."
Katella scores only its 12th point with 4:55 remaining in the half. Servite scores its 25th after retrieving four of its own missed shots. Danley can't believe it. He is back in that crouch, yapping away like an Irish terrier.
"One more time, and I want to barf," he says. "I want to barf."
Two rows behind Danley are two young boys, maybe 8 or 9. They hear this latest remark and begin laughing, but with their hands over their mouths, as if they were in church. So entertaining is Danley that the two boys exchange high-fives when he calls time out. They know what it is about to happen.
"Pressure! Pressure! Pressure!" Danley says to his team. "And it's not even tough pressure." Danley waddles toward his left. "I don't believe this. I just don't believe this. Sixteen points in a half? Sixteen points? That means eight points a quarter and that means 32 points for a game, an all-time low. All right. Here we go. C'mon!"
Actually, Katella scores one more point before halftime and trails, 28-17. Turns out it won't matter.
By the end of the third quarter, Katella is behind by 13. The highlight of the evening is when a rare Katella point run is interrupted by a referee's whistle; he has to tie his shoe.
The fourth quarter has its moments. Katella's Ian Donnelly is everywhere--blocking shots, sinking three-pointers, grabbing rebounds as if he were on commission. Danley even gets to see one of your more interesting mismatches: Katella's 5-9 Bubba Clester vs. Servite's 6-9 Nick Marusich. Surprisingly enough, the Knights even manage to cut Servite's lead to nine points.
"We're trying, but we've got to get some more movement on defense," Danley says during a timeout, his mood slightly better.
It doesn't happen. Donnelly finishes with 28 points, but Katella loses, 62-50. Off to the locker room, where Danley begins his postgame lecture behind closed doors.
Ten minutes have passed, and Danley is still yelling. One of his sons, Steve, a guard for Katella in the late '70s, listens to the tirade and then announces, "He'll be in there for a while."
"Is he always like this?" someone asks.
"People don't understand," says Steve. "He's as congenial and as nice of a guy as you'd like to meet off the court. But when he's coaching, it's like he's out there. He expects the kids to be in the game as much as he is. I mean, he can be intimidating as hell, but he's not going to push you or something stupid like that."
Steve would know. One time, after his son botched an inbounds pass, Danley yelled something like, "THROW THE DAMN THING IN!" Steve turned around and yelled right back, "NOBODY WAS OPEN, DAMN IT!"
"As soon as I said it, I froze a little," says Steve. "I headed out to the court real quick, but about halfway there I heard the buzzer, and I know it's for me. I don't even look. I know there's someone coming in, so I make this big loop toward the end of the bench but he meets me halfway. He says, 'You want to yell at me? Fine, you can stay here the rest of the game.' "
Later, Steve sneaked into the game after Danley was busy attending to an injured starter. "He leaves me in for about two minutes, and then I hear that buzzer again," says Steve. "He benches me for the rest of the game."
The yelling has subsided in the locker room. Danley is talking softly now. "He's just trying to find a way to get through to them," Steve says. "You've got to have tough kids. He tries to make them that."
Danley finally emerges from the locker room. The talk has lasted nearly 25 minutes. "You know," he says wearily, "we're really not a bad ballclub. We have some talent. We have some depth. We're not world-beaters, but we're not as bad as we've played this year."
He looks tired. This is his 22nd season at Katella, and for the life of him, Danley can't mold this team in his likeness: tough, feisty, caring and dedicated.
"You try to give them the best that you have," he says. "To do anything less than that, you're not giving them the opportunity to be competitive."
Twenty-two years of victory veins and Edward G. Robinson. Danley leaves a little piece of himself on the court each time he coaches. "Sure, doesn't everyone?" he says. "Though I think I'm leaving my body out there this year."