Biggs says late coach 'taught me how to win'

  • December 1, 2008

By Matt Schwab
Staff writer
Updated: 11/28/2008

When Will Biggs heard the news, the tears started to flow. All the memories. All the glory. The man helped shaped his life on and off the basketball court.

Amador Valley High coaching legend Skip Mohatt died on Nov. 21, a Friday night, at the age of 74. Biggs, the veteran Cal State East Bay men's basketball coach, didn't hear the news until Sunday - a day after his Pioneers (1-1) won a thriller, 86-84, over Whitman College for their first win of the 2008-09 season.

To his core, Biggs is a Mohatt protege.

"Skip taught me how to win," Biggs said Tuesday morning. "I never knew how hard I could push myself or be so dedicated to a cause. He impacted every player that had the opportunity to play for him."

Biggs was a standout three-sport athlete at Amador Valley in the early 1970s. He played basketball for the demanding coach Mohatt, one of the Bay Area's all-time greats in tennis and baseball. Mohatt's teams won 10 East Bay Athletic League titles, including nine in a row. He stepped down as coach after the 1980-81 season to take over the program at Ohlone College.

Mohatt's teams only played man-on-man defense, and as Biggs progressed through the coaching ranks, including a successful run at James Logan High, he found it exceedingly difficult to go against his old coach's creed of "we don't play no stinkin' zones."

"It took years before I could play a zone as a coach because I felt I was letting him down," Biggs said. "He eventually OK'd my teams playing some zone."

In his 12th year at Cal State East Bay, Biggs said he first met Mohatt when he was 10 years old. Mohatt would have his Amador Valley players coach the different grade levels in town during the Christmas vacation. Biggs played in the games.

"That same year, by coincidence, my dad and I wound up sitting next to Skip at the Oakland Coliseum," Biggs recalled. "Berkeley was playing Wilson of San Francisco at the (Tournament of Champions). During the championship awards ceremony, he bumped me and said, 'You and I will be down there together someday.'

"He was right. My senior year we went undefeated in the (East Bay Athletic League) and won the TOC consolation championship. I have a picture of myself, Bruce Cavestri, and Skip receiving the award. I also earned all-tournament. I owe it all to him."

Las Positas College men's coach Tony Costello was Biggs' basketball teammate when they were Amador seniors. Costello recalls Biggs as an excellent all-around athlete who ran the team on the floor. Costello said Biggs and Mohatt had many of the same stubborn, very competent qualities which caused them to butt heads at times, but they also had a mutual respect.

Flashing ahead to last Saturday night, Biggs' Cal State East Bay squad rode Pete Johnson's 17 points for a tight win over Whitman. Tauran Moore had 12 points, and Will Freedman had a double-double with 11 points and 11 boards.

"It was very close and could have gone either way," Biggs said of the cliffhanger. "During the game I kept saying to myself, 'That was a lucky break.' Looking back, I think Skip was there helping us out. I will miss him."

TIDBITS: The Cal State East Bay women's basketball team and Cal Lutheran combined for a staggering 207 points on Nov. 22. Lutheran prevailed 104-103. Pioneers junior guard Marie Colon was named Cal Pac Conference Women's Basketball Player of the Week after scoring 30 points with five rebounds and three steals. ... Cal State East Bay's Andrew Welch (Castro Valley) has been named 2008 NAIA Men's Cross Country Scholar Athlete. Welch, a sociology and criminal justice major, has a 3.55 grade point average.

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