When Fred Price walked away from his boys basketball coaching post in March after 13 years at Templeton High School, he thought he was waving goodbye to coaching for good.
That is, until the same position at his alma mater, Atascadero, became available.
So when Matt Knudson stepped down following a successful — yet short — stint with the Greyhounds, the 1976 graduate decided to forego his retirement and return to the program he helped win a CIF-Southern Section championship with in 1974.
“I thought I was done, and I thought coach Knudson was going to be (at Atascadero) for a long time,” Price said Tuesday, less than a week after officially accepting the job. “But I talked to my daughters and they were like, ‘You’ve got to do it.’
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“I’m very excited to get back and start coaching.”
Price coached the Greyhounds’ junior varsity and freshmen teams starting in 1985 until leaving for Templeton in the late 1990s. He had been with the Eagles ever since, spending four years as an assistant under Andrew Cherry before taking over the top job in 2005.
“It’s going to be really hard to lose him,” said first-year Templeton athletic director Lindsay Campana, who never worked with Price in an administrative capacity but was a student and girls basketball player during Price’s tenure with the Eagles. “He leaves some big shoes to fill, and I don’t think you can fill them right away.”
Price said he will always cherish the memories he made and the relationships he forged five miles to the north, but there’s no denying the added emotion that comes with returning to Ewing Gymnasium.
“I remember the atmosphere and energy when I played there,” said Price, who went on to play at Cuesta College. “Orange and gray is in my heart.”
Atascadero athletic director Sam DeRose said Price’s humble demeanor and ability to instill life lessons in addition to coaching are what made him the best candidate.
“For Fred, it’s coming home,” he said. “He’s all about the kids. Not only is he an excellent coach in the game of basketball, but he brings a personable side as far as his relationship with the kids.”
The Greyhounds went 24-3 in the second and final season under Knudson — a former JV player for Price with the Greyhounds who resigned in May for personal reasons — but graduates all five starters and several other contributors.
“I think that any time you’re looking to fill a position, it depends where you’re program is at,” DeRose said. “There are a lot of factors that come into play.
“In terms of Fred, his most admirable quality is that he’s a very humble man. In the course of our interviews and sitting down to talk with him about the position, he made it clear that he really cares about the opportunity and is excited to come back.”
Price admitted he is still getting familiar with the roster, but likes what he sees so far. In addition to a strong junior varsity squad working its way through the ranks, Atascadero returns slashing guard Taylor Kim — an all-league honorable mention player as a junior. Price also said 6-foot-7 Ryan O’Connell will return to the court after taking a year off.
“Our goals are the same as it probably was this past year,” Price said. “We want to go out and we want to win.”
Price was a junior varsity call-up on the 1974 team the defeated Elsinore for the Southern Section Division A title at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.
He didn’t play in the game, but the memories are far from fleeting.
“Those guys played the game the right way,” under legendary coach Art Wilmore, Price said. “They had great defensive pressure, they shared the ball and they pushed the ball.
“Most importantly, they all knew how to put the egos away and play for the team.”
In other coaching news, DeRose said Connie Baird will be the Greyhounds girls tennis coach. Baird was already coaching the boys varsity squad as well as the girls JV team.
Campana, who took over July 1, said she has begun accepting applications for the boys basketball coaching vacancy. She also said Templeton is searching for a new girls basketball coach. Shawn Koehler stepped down after five seasons coaching varsity, including last year’s 23-3 campaign.