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Former La Canada football coach dies

Charles Rich

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.