Al Garcia, one of the most prominent sports figures on the Central Coast for a period of three decades, will soon be a Hall of Famer.
The Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table will induct him into its Hall of Fame at the organization’s annual awards dinner on May 18.
“Jennifer Crump will introduce me,” Garcia said. He said Crump was a distinguished football star when she played for Garcia at Righetti High School.
“I introduce her as my presenter, then she introduces me,” Garcia said with a chuckle. “(NSBCART officer) Yvonne Biely lets us do it this way.”
At various times from 1991 until his semi-retirement as a coach in 2020, Garcia coached football and/or track at Hancock College, Santa Maria, Righetti, and St. Joseph High Schools.
Garcia worked at Delta High School for 26 years “as an outreach counselor — like a counselor,” he said. He retired from Delta after the 2020 school year.
In 2005, he coached the Santa Maria boys’ soccer team to a CIF Southern Section Division 4 title. The Saints defeated then-Los Padres League rivals Santa Ynez 4-0 in the league game at Huyck Stadium in Lompoc.
Garcia’s 2001 Hancock football team made it to the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) men’s Final Four before bowing out.
Garcia said he coached his granddaughter Julie Corteguera on the St. Joseph girls soccer team last season before describing it primarily as a coaching career.
“Julie played center back for me in football and made it to the (section preliminary) in the hurdles in lane,” Garcia said.
“She made me promise her I would retire from coaching after coaching her in football during her senior year,” Garcia said. Garcia kept his promise.
Garcia wryly notes that his wife Patricia also played a role in his retirement from coaching.
“She said, ‘Look, if you want to keep coaching, you can coach as much as you want and I’ll do all the travel by myself.'”
Al Garcia chuckled. “I said, ‘Damn, no. I want to travel.’” With that, Al’s retirement was final.
“Without the support of my family, I couldn’t have trained all this time,” he said.
Garcia said two of his fondest coaching memories come from that Santa Maria Sectional Championship team and the Hancock Final Four roster.
“I loved the Santa Maria team,” Al Garcia said. “Edgar Miranda was the (section) player of the year. Many outstanding players.
“[The CIF Southern Section Office]wanted us to play the championship game at Mayfair High School,” Garcia said in Lakewood.
“I’m sitting there and I’m like, ‘What?! can’t you discuss that (The Santa Maria and Santa Ynez teams) are so close. Why would you let us play down south?’”
Garcia said: “We sold out Huyck Stadium. There were 3,000 fans. (The CIF Southern Section) made money. If we had played in Mayfair the number of fans there would have been a busload.”
The Hancock Final Four team was packed with local stars like Nathan Nuñez and stalwart goalies Jason Hancock and Jeff Fuehring. Hancock was the main starter, with Fuehring a more than reliable reinforcement.
Western State Athletic Conference MVP and All-State pick Isaac Torres was a notable exception to the primarily local roster makeup. Torres graduated from Coast Union High School in Cambria.
The Bulldogs also had a strong run in 2002 before getting upset early in the playoffs. “I was close to a lot of players from those teams,” Garcia said.
He also proudly referred to his time with the St. Joseph girls soccer team. “I kind of helped build this program,” Garcia said. The Knights were regular playoff contenders after Garcia took over. Garcia also coached the St. Joseph boys’ soccer team for a year. He coached the Righetti girls soccer team for several years.
He coached both soccer and track and field at several schools. “I love the circuit,” said Garcia. “For a time I helped (then head coach Louie Quintana) with both Hancock and Righetti.”
Garcia said he is grateful to be inducted into the NSBCART Hall of Fame.
“If you’re doing something you love, if you’re dedicating your life to it and making sacrifices because you love the kids, don’t expect anything special. I am honored to be included.”
Garcia said he likes retirement but “I really miss the kids. I love the children.”
He is not FULLY retired. “I do substitute classes,” Garcia said. “I’m now doing a long-term 10-week part-time job at Delta.”