Nearly 40 years ago, Scott Larson fell in love with coaching.
It wasn’t the thrill of game night or the satisfaction of wins that sold him, though, as much as the simple goal of trying to help kids get better every day.
“Practice, you get to get in there and work as a team, work on the things you need to get better at,” Larson said. “And the beauty of that is that you see the team improve. That’s what really got me hooked, in 1972.
“I look at coaching as being like a construction contractor, and building something each year,” he added. “I love the practices.”
For all but one year since 1977-78, Larson has brought that approach as the head varsity boys basketball coach at Paso Robles High.
Larson recently retired from the position, ending his tenure with the Bearcats having coached a total of 784 games (433-351).
A replacement could be named by next month, Larson said, although he was unsure who leading candidates might be.
Larson came to Paso Robles following one year as the JV coach at Glendale High, two years at his alma mater, Occidental College, and then two more years at Lee Vining High.
“The town was a lot smaller in those days,” Larson said of Paso Robles. “It was more tightly knit.”
He previously retired following the 2005-06 season before returning in 2007-08.
In the future, Larson said, he “wouldn’t mind helping somebody out, or putting on a clinic, but as far as being a head coach at the high school level, I’m not going to do that again, I don’t think.”
With offseason work put in for the program in the fall, spring and summer also a yearly consideration, Larson said his time had come to move on.
“Right now in my life, it’s too much time,” said Larson, a history teacher at the school. “The older you get, the more time is valuable. It’s just a time factor, and everybody has to get out of the game sooner or later.
“It’s such a preoccupation,” Larson said. “I definitely am getting to the point where I need to get away from it and let somebody younger, who has more energy and time to commit to it, take it over.”
Recounting fond memories Monday, Larson was able to mention multiple starters from specific teams spanning five different decades as if they played last week.
“There were some really fantastic teams that I was able to coach, that I felt privileged to coach,” he said.
Two summers ago, Larson was named the California Coaches Association Boys Basketball Coach of the Year, and last season, the court at Asa Gym was named after him.
On a couple occasions, his teams made it deep enough into the playoffs that they took on future NBA players. Three of his 10 league-championship teams won those titles in undefeated fashion, and the year after he came out of the first retirement, his team made a 17-win improvement from the previous season.
But it’s the timeless quality of all the unseen practices that he’ll probably miss the most, he said, more than the end results.
“I don’t think kids have changed,” Larson said. “I think outside influences have changed, and it’s a real battle to keep kids focused and dedicated and single-minded about the task at hand, because there’s so many things that are going on nowadays that can detract from it.
“But I think once you get a kid in the gym and work with them, especially kids that are motivated to be there, I don’t think that kid is any different than he was in 1977,” Larson said.