LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE -- The question fired at Buzz Burner might have
been a shot in the dark.
What Burner didn’t know when he sat before a five-member panel to
interview for a teaching position in the La Canada High School commercial
business department in 1967 was that his future mentor, who had burst
onto the school’s sports scene in 1963, was sitting directly across the
Burner recalled meeting Bob Mahoney, La Canada’s first football coach
who died Feb. 10 at his home in Laguna Niguel at the age of 75.
“He asked me at the interview if I had a football coaching
background,” said Burner, who teaches English, physical education and
driver’s education at La Canada. “I told him I had a background in
swimming and he named me the freshmen football coach. We had 126 freshman
come out and that was the largest at that time.
“He was very congenial like a coach should be and he was interested in
developing the kids. He was a showman who created scenarios with pep
talks to the team.”
Mahoney guided the Spartans to their first league championship in
1964. Mahoney’s sharp wit and invaluable leadership helped upstart La
Canada post a 14-0 CIF first-round win against El Segundo and then
advanced to the semifinals against Thousand Oaks.
Mahoney, who coached the program from 1963-69, produced three
consecutive winning seasons from 1964-66. The Hoover High graduate gave
the Spartans instant credibility.
Mahoney, inducted in the school’s athletic hall of fame in 1999, was
the school’s first driver’s education instructor. Jim Lewis succeeded
Mahoney and Burner took over the duties from Lewis.
“Bob showed basic driving films and he taught the history of cars,”
Burner said. “I show updated versions of those films to my students today
and I’m thinking about Bob. I’d call and tell him that.”
Burner, who will retire in June, said Mahoney retired from La Canada
around 1976 to work for a now-defunct real estate firm in Glendale.