4 Hours : The Coach

Rookie Western High volleyball Coach Don Crosby, dressed in shorts and T-shirt, leans against a wall in the gymnasium at Anaheim High, sighs and adjusts his glasses. He has been there since 2:25 p.m. after rumbling cross-town with the varsity, junior varsity and frosh-soph teams in a smoky, yellow school bus.

The Orange League is no volleyball heaven. It is 4 p.m. and the frosh-soph match between the Pioneers and Colonists is halfway over. The junior varsity match still needs to be played and 20 minutes after that the varsity takes the floor. Four or five hours more and Crosby will be back at his home in Huntington Beach, where his day started, as usual, at sunrise.

A veteran business teacher, Crosby, 55, is a no-nonsense, grandfatherly figure who has spent 31 years at Western coaching a variety of sports. He was Tiger Woods' golf "coach" when Woods attended Western, and he has been a lower-level football coach.

When girls' Athletic Director Annette Quintana, the former varsity coach, took maternity leave, Crosby was appointed to handle the entire volleyball program, which means overseeing two walk-on coaches at the lower levels.

He never really saw himself in the role, although he handled the frosh-soph team from 1992 to 1995. In fact, Crosby is hoping that rumors about a golden handshake in the Anaheim Union High School District come true, saying that he prefers to retire and return as a walk-on coach. He is lobbying for a girls' golf team next fall.

"Somewhere about 15 years ago I quit trying to coach potential [stars] and I just started coaching kids," he said.

Crosby admits that his first-hand knowledge of volleyball is limited. A daughter, one of three children he put through college, played at Huntington Beach High in the late 1980s.

"She had to teach me about rotation," he said. "I watched them out on the court all the time and I didn't know what in the hell they were doing."

What he lacks in knowledge, he said, he makes up for in organization. He has read a dozen books, visited practices at other schools and talked to other volleyball coaches.

"All football coaches have practice plans written out," he said. "I still do. Most of these young kids coaching volleyball don't have a clue about that."

Western's frosh-soph team is finishing a convincing two-game sweep when Crosby proudly points to a clipboard of rotation charts that he developed.

"I'd like to publish these someday," he said. "I've never seen anything like this in any book anywhere."

Night begins to fall outside the gym. An emotionless Crosby is still hugging that wall, filling out a chart with kills, passes and serves by each junior varsity player.

"If I get little smarter, I'll figure out what to do with digs," he said.

A heavy favorite, the junior varsity struggles to a three-game victory, but the varsity, as expected, sweeps and virtually assures a playoff berth. Crosby is calm throughout.

The bus ride back to Western is equally as mundane as the earlier one, arriving about 7:15. In a neatly organized cubbyhole of an office adjacent to the girls' gym, Crosby phones scores to two newspapers and to the league secretary at Brea Olinda.

The locker room empties of players, leaving the coach alone. Later he'll lock the office door, climb into his car and make the long drive home, knowing he'll be back in about 10 hours.

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