OCC coaching legend dies

Don Watson, a longtime swimming and water polo coach, who helped lead the Pirates to 19 state championships over his 30-year career at Orange Coast College, passed away Monday evening following a nine-year bout with stomach cancer. He was 59.

Watson began his OCC coaching career in 1980 as a part-time instructor and eventually became a full-time coach for the Pirates in 1989. As head coach of the women's swim team, he helped guide the Pirates to 15 state championships since 1983.

In dual-meet competition, Watson's Pirates compiled an astounding 168-8 record, winning 23 conference titles. From 1983-1998, the Pirates had won 126 consecutive dual meets before finally falling to Riverside on March 6, 1998.

As the men's swim coach, Watson guided the Pirates to eight conference titles (eight straight from 1987-1994), three state championships (1991, 1992, 1994) and was an assistant coach to three more state titles in 2006, 2007, 2009. Much like the women's team, the OCC men's team was nearly unbeatable during the late 1980s and early 90s as the Pirates won 49 straight dual-meet contests from 1989-1994.

During the fall, Watson was the men's water polo coach from 1985-1994 and again in 2006, compiling a 224-90 record (.713 win percentage). In conference play, Watson helped lead the Pirates to a 95-21 record (.819 win percentage), five conference titles and five second-place finishes.

As the women's water polo coach, Watson helped lead the Pirates to their lone state title in 2001 with a 36-1 record. He won 132 games in five seasons as head coach.

Watson earned his Bachelor's degree in history from Long Beach State, earned his JC teaching credential from UCLA and his Master's degree at United States International University.

Prior to his coaching career, Watson was an All-CIF swimmer and water polo player during his prep career. At Long Beach State, Watson was named the team's Most Valuable Player in 1971.

In addition to his coaching legacy, Watson left a lasting impression throughout the community with his many youth swim programs he developed throughout the years. In fact, for over 30 years, Watson helped run summer swim programs at OCC as well as the Balboa Bay Club and other aquatic venues in the area. The number of kids that have been taught proper water techniques through Watson's tutelage are too many to count and his impact on this community will last for generations to come.

Don is survived by his wife, Teri, his mother, Tamara and his four step-grandchildren Amriel, Adelyn, Alec and Cade.

The Watson family is establishing a scholarship and in lieu of gifts, a monetary donation should be directed to the following:

Watson Family Scholarship

C/O Orange Coast College Foundation

2701 Fairview Road

Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Also, online gifts can be presented by logging onto:


— From Orange Coast College

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