Nearly every seat in the bleachers at the Edison High School gym was taken by a friend, colleague, player or family member who came to pay respects to girls’ basketball coach Dan Wiley on Sunday evening.
About 300 people attended a celebration-of-life memorial service at the Huntington Beach school in honor of Wiley, 61, who died Oct. 26 at his home.
Wiley’s family said the Orange County coroner’s office suspects a heart attack as the cause of death.
“It was so unexpected because he wasn’t even sick,” said Wiley’s daughter Meghan Wiley-Tritt, 30. “Of course, he loved basketball, but it was more than just the game. Basketball was the vessel he came in to give back to the kids.”
Wiley would have coached his eighth season for the girls’ varsity team this school year.
Edison Booster Club President Kari Atencio and Dan Wiley’s sister Deborah Wiley organized the service on Sunday.
The gym’s floor was embellished with flowers and photos of the coach with family and friends.
Wiley’s players wore black jerseys with “The Wiley Way” printed across the back.
“To do something in the Wiley way is to do it with intensity, heart and full of effort,” said assistant coach Sara Brown. “That’s who Dan was. The girls he’s coached have all evolved to women who want to push themselves to be better.”
Brown said the team will leave a seat open on the bench at all games this season – the seat Wiley would have been in.
“It’s hard to lose him,” team member Alyssa Atencio said. “He was the type of coach who made us want to work harder because he cared so much. He was like our dad.”
Atencio and teammate Justine Modde, both seniors, had Wiley as a coach since they began high school.
“I first came into the team not wanting to play because I just lost my passion for it,” Modde said. “But he sparked it again.”
Sunday’s service opened with a eulogy by Deborah Wiley. “I almost expect [Dan] to walk through those doors and say, ‘Gotcha,’” she said. “Dan lived more in 61 years than some do in 100.”
Wiley’s daughters, Wiley-Tritt and Kerry Wiley, 27, wore matching corsages with yellow rosebuds and green leaves strung together, representing the green and gold colors of the Edison Chargers. They also wore sweatshirts, black workout pants and tennis shoes, saying it’s what their dad would have wanted.
“We cannot thank Edison enough for all the love they have given during this time,” Wiley-Tritt said. “I’ve never seen my dad happier than when he was here coaching. He bled for the Chargers.”
The evening closed with a prayer, a tribute video and a reception in the gym.