One of a kind: The lasting, loving legacy of Bob Chavez
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The list of names that Bob Chavez could remember from the time he coached boys basketball at Glenwood Springs High School is a pretty long one.
Among those names were Tom and Mike Vidakovich, Rick Sorenson, Mike Matheny, Kevin Flohr, Scott Bolitho and Rick Ecker. Others included Bruce Vanderhoof, Jerry Law, Kurt Lyons, Scott Balcomb and Steve Beatty.
“Every one of the players you coach become one of your own kids,” said Chavez, who coached the Demons for 30 years until his retirement in 1989. “You love these kids, and you always want what’s best for them.”
The longtime coach got a lot out of all of the players over the three decades that he walked the Demons’ bench. He compiled an overall record of 477-161, which included state championships in 1975, 1979 and 1984. His teams made it to the eight-team state tournament 19 times, finished as the runner-up four times and claimed three consolation championships. During the 30 years he coached, Glenwood only had one sub-.500 season. The Demons almost won back-to-back titles twice, finishing second in 1974 and 1985.
He was inducted into the Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame in 2002, which came five years after Chavez and his wife of 58 years, Shirley, sold their Glenwood Springs house and moved to Mesa, Arizona. Every summer, however, Bob and Shirley have a lot at Amy’s Acres campground in Glenwood where they park their fifth-wheel mobile home and stay for the summer.
And even 26 years after his retirement and close to two decades after he and his wife sold their house in downtown Glenwood, the impact he’s made on the players he coached and the people he’s been around is still evident.
“I’ve always said that there could only be one Chav,” said Scott Bolitho, who played on the Demons’ 1978-79 basketball team that went 23-0 and won the Class AA state championship. “You just can’t duplicate the kind of coach or person he was. I’ve never seen anything like that since then.”
GETTING HIS CHANCE
Chavez, 82, grew up in Trinidad and attended Pueblo Junior College, followed by a stint at Western State in Gunnison. His first coaching gig out of college was at Avondale near Pueblo, where he coached junior high football and basketball. His full desire, however, was to coach at the varsity high school level.
One of the first coaching jobs he applied for fresh out of college in 1956 was in Rangely, but he received a rejection letter which said they were looking for someone with more experience. Then when the head coaching job at Avondale opened, he never received an interview.
So he quit and came to Glenwood as a freshman boys basketball coach and a fifth-grade teacher. When he was hired, he told former superintendent Lucian Allen he would like to have a shot at the head coaching job if Bob Daniels, who coached football, basketball and track and field, were to ever give up basketball.
Daniels did that a year later, and Allen and two members of the school board paid Chavez a visit at the trailer where he, Shirley and his two oldest children, Rob and Shelly, lived.
“I told my wife they were probably coming up to fire me,” Chavez joked.
Instead, they offered Chavez the head coaching job at Glenwood, which had an enrollment of roughly 150 students and had recently converted from being Garfield County High School. And in his first season, thanks to players like Charlie Stewart and Tom Turner, the Demons lost only three games that season.
“I guess the good Lord must have been looking out for me or something,” Chavez said.
Former players and coaches always marveled at how enthusiastic Chavez was when he coached on the sideline.
Mike Vidakovich, who was a senior on Glenwood’s state title-winning team in 1979, talked about how Chavez would love it when opposing teams would call a timeout following a big scoring run by the high-octane offense the Demons ran under Chavez.
“He was always animated,” Vidakovich said. “And on top of that he never really yelled at us. When we got on a roll and the other team would call timeout, he would run halfway out onto the court with his fists clenched in the air and greet us. That pumped us up even more.”
Chavez admitted that one of his primary coaching assets was his ability to motivate, and his excitable nature was a key component of that.
“The year that we won the state championship [in 1979], he had some bad knees,” Bolitho said, adding with a laugh: “There would be times when he would jump up off the bench and cheer, but then he’d have to hold himself up to make sure his knees didn’t go out.”
One coach who noticed Chavez’s positivity is a former Denver Nuggets coach and current member of the Basketball Hall of Fame: Larry Brown.
Brown sat on press row and watched the Demons play Denver Christian for the 1979 AA state title at old McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, when Glenwood triumphed 80-62 and completed the Demons’ only unbeaten season at 23-0. After the game, the Nuggets coach was more than complimentary about Chavez’s coaching style.
“I still have the recording at home [in Arizona] somewhere,” Chavez said. “He said to the radio guy, and I can’t remember it word for word, but he said, ‘If I could coach with the same enthusiasm and the love for his kids like that coach from Glenwood Springs does, I would love to do that someday.’ That made me feel really good.”
THE SUPPORT CREW
Bob Chavez wasn’t the only person who loved his players.
Shirley, up until the tail end of her husband’s coaching career, attended every Glenwood Springs High School boys basketball game that her husband coached. She never traveled directly with the team — Bob never let her ride the team bus — but would make every home game at what is now the high school’s auxiliary gymnasium and would drive to games in Craig, Grand Junction, Aspen and, as the case would be almost annually, Denver.
Bolitho said players would show up at Chavez’s house near downtown Glenwood and play pickup basketball at the hoop at his house and, in between games of 21 and 3-on-3, she would bring the players in to feed them hot dogs and hamburgers.
“She really was kind of like the team mom,” Bolitho said.
Shirley, all of these years later, didn’t think anything of it.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” she said. “All of the kids we had come through here left a lot of memories for us.”
LEAVING A LEGACY
Along with all of the kids on the basketball court, Chavez also raised four children — Rob, Shelly, Rick and Mike — in Glenwood. He also had four players who received Division I basketball scholarships and, not surprisingly, runs into a lot of them when he’s in town during the summertime either at the grocery store, Strawberry Days or somewhere around town.
His name is now forever etched on the wall at Glenwood Springs High’s gym. It’s now named Chavez/Spencer Gymnasium for him and Harlan Spencer, who was the school’s first girls basketball coach.
Chavez’s legacy wasn’t just in the success his teams had on the basketball court, but by the manner in which it came.
“I can’t begin to tell you how lucky we were to have people like Don Miller or Harlan Spencer or Bob Chavez in our lives,” Bolitho said.
Bolitho is just one person in a long list of former players who Chavez thought the world of.
“All of the kids I coached, they were like my sons,” he said.
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Fans, players and coaches on both sides of Stubler Memorial Field seemed to know it would come down just the way it did, regardless of who had the ball at the end.