Newport Harbor High Coach Bill Barnett has said the 2011-12 girls' water polo team was his most cohesive unit and he has been very proud of the squad that won the CIF Southern Section Division I title.
But he can't celebrate with his girls Sunday night at a CIF banquet. That's because the legendary coach is recovering from his third back surgery, which he had three weeks ago.
Barnett, 69, who lives in Laguna Beach, says he will be fine and plans to be on the pool deck when practices begin next week. Yet, he did say this is the most pain he has endured from a back that usually aches him. The surgery was to treat a bulging disc in his back. He has also had neck surgery in the past.
He has been using a walker to aid with his walking since the surgery.
"I plan to come back and coach; I'm fine," Barnett said Tuesday night. "In reality, if [Ted] Newland can coach from a wheelchair then I should be fine."
Barnett was referring to the former Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar coach, who coached from a wheelchair while working at UC Irvine.
Barnett wouldn't go into great detail about his most recent surgery.
"It's a long recovery, let's put it that way," he said.
Barnett acknowledged this was a good time to have surgery, before practices begin. He has been retired after teaching at Newport Harbor, where he arrived in 1966.
He will be entering his 46th year of coaching.
He led the Newport Harbor boys' team to 10 CIF titles and seven other appearances in the final of the section's large-school division from 1967 to 1987.
Barnett is also a former U.S. Olympic men's team coach. He guided the Americans to a silver medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and a fourth-place finish at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
In February, he coached Newport Harbor to its fifth CIF Southern Section Division I title. The Sailors will be honored during a banquet at Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant near the amusement park.