GLENDALE — Gordon Warnock, who guided the Crescenta Valley High football team to its lone CIF championship and was a fixture in the local coaching fraternity for more than 40 years, has died. He was 79.
He reportedly died in his sleep at his La Crescenta residence on Wednesday morning, though the cause was unclear. Recently, he had reportedly been fitted for a pacemaker due to a slow pulse.
"We were together for 40 years," said Crescenta Valley assistant coach Dennis Gossard, who became an assistant under Warnock in 1970. "He was a class individual and his No. 1 concern was always the kids.
"I talked to him Tuesday and he sounded great. We will miss him. The coaching profession will miss him."
Warnock piloted the Falcons to the CIF Southern Section Division AAA championship. He coached the Falcons from 1967-76 and 1979-84 before serving as an assistant for many years. Warnock and assistant coach Bill Irace co-coached the team on an interim basis for the final four weeks of the 2006 season. He began this season as the defensive backs coach despite having suffered an injury to his Achilles' heel during the summer.
Crescenta Valley first-year Coach Paul Schilling said Warnock's daughter, Julia, found her father in his bed Wednesday morning.
"It's rare in coaching where you have people saying only good things about you," Schilling said. "I learned a lot from him and so did a lot of other people.
"We talked to the players at practice and we talked about doing something to honor him. We are going to try to have helmet stickers with his initials for the rest of the season."
Crescenta Valley quarterback Zac Wilkerson said the current cast of players shared several stories about Warnock.
"We reminisced about him before practice [Wednesday]," Wilkerson said. "We talked about how it's been an honor to play for him.
"He was always encouraging. He would want us to continue playing as hard as we can."
Warnock, who graduated from Stanford University in 1953 before serving five years in the United States Navy, coached football at different levels for more than 50 years. But it was at Crescenta Valley where he took over a program and made it one of the top teams in the area and region.
"He had a ton of energy and kept himself in great condition," said Mark Miller, who was a senior running back on the Crescenta Valley team that posted a 14-7 victory against Monrovia in the championship contest in front of more than 11,000 at Citrus College. "He was always calm and collective and an inspiration to many.
"He kept [the team] like a family. It was always like a family at Crescenta Valley. He was always there for you."
Over Warnock's first two stints, the Falcons went 84-82-3. Warnock, who was inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame on May 8, coached former standouts that included Miller, Brad Holland, Paul Steinbacher and Tom Holmoe.
Prior to coming on board at Crescenta Valley, Warnock was an assistant at San Jose State before assisting on the high school level at Long Beach Poly and El Rancho. He also served as head coach at Valencia High in Placentia in 1966.
Warnock coached at Pasadena City College from 1986-95, but Crescenta Valley remained close to him. He proved to be a mentor for those who would go on to patrol the sidelines at Crescenta Valley.
Alan Eberhart, who coached the Falcons from 1993 and into the final month of the 2006 season, said he learned the ropes of being a head coach from Warnock.
"He was an absolute man," said Eberhart, who led Crescenta Valley to five Pacific League championships and is now the head coach at Glendale High. "He taught all of us so much.
"The city mourns the loss of a master teacher. He certainly taught me a lot."
Though currently a coach at Glendale, when Eberhart heard of Warnock's passing on Wednesday, he immediately went to Crescenta Valley to be with old friends, colleagues and students.
Warnock gave Jim Beckenhauer his first coaching job in 1974. Beckenhauer, who starred at quarterback at Crescenta Valley and Glendale Community College, became co-coach of the school's junior varsity football team.
Beckenhauer eventually succeeded Warnock as varsity coach, a position he held from 1985-92 that culminated in a trip to the semifinals in 1992.
"I'm always going to be grateful to him for hiring me and giving me my start in coaching," Beckenhauer said. "He gave me plenty of guidance and he just loved football.
"He was a wonderful man, but he didn't want it to be about him. It was always about the kids and the other people. He did what he loved doing and that was coaching football."
Crescenta Valley boys' Athletic Director Dave Mendoza said Warnock's presence and contributions exceeded his on-field contributions.
"He was the embodiment for Crescenta Valley High School athletics," Mendoza said. "He touched so many people in the community.
"He was a coach and a father figure. The people here not only lost a colleague, but also a friend and a family member."
Funeral services are pending.