Dean Esposito: Silver Salute to Local Hoops Legend

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Community program to honor veteran volunteer Dean Esposito for a quarter century of coaching and caring.

I was a little surprised how much… teaching these kids to play the game reminded me of my own childhood, and some of the great coaches I had.

The Town of Loomis Community Recreation Department announced today that former department chairman and longtime volunteer basketball coach Dean Esposito will be honored Feb. 11 during a special ceremony highlighting his 25 years of community service.

Esposito, a lifetime Loomis resident who has coached Community Recreation Department teams annually since 1987 and was the department’s chairman from January 1999 to December 2008, will have the gymnasium at Loomis’ Del Oro High School renamed for him following the final game of the Recreation Department’s youth basketball season, according to information provided by the department.

“We feel this is the perfect way to honor Dean Esposito for a quarter century of exceptional service to the Loomis Community Recreation Department and the youth basketball program,” Nicholas Mann, current Recreation Department chairman, said in a statement. “Dean has meant so much to so many people, and as he completes his 25th season of teaching the youth of this community the fundamentals of the sport he loves, we are very happy to bestow this honor upon him.”

“I really don’t know what to say,” said Dean Esposito, who turned 68 on Jan. 7 and celebrated his birthday by coaching the Red Dogs – a squad of 7- and 8-year-old hoopsters – to their third win in four games this season. “I never said to myself, ‘Hey, I think I’ll go coach because then everyone will love me and do nice things for me.’ I coach because I love the sport and I love the kids, and the fact that the community feels strongly enough about me to do something like this is really overwhelming.”

Rechristening the Del Oro High School gymnasium, weight room and locker-room facilities “The Coach Dean Esposito Athletic Facility” has special meaning for Esposito, who was among the first students to attend Del Oro High when it opened in 1959. He starred on the school’s Golden Eagles varsity basketball team for three seasons – his quick feet and keen eye for passing made him and exceptional point guard – before graduating in 1963 and accepting a basketball scholarship to UCLA.

After spending most of his first season on the UCLA bench, Esposito was preparing for a starting spot on the 1964-65 Bruins, but was seriously injured in a preseason car accident. Serious spinal injuries would limit his shoulder and wrist functions for the rest of his life, and a knee dislocation would never quite heal correctly. Esposito never played competitive basketball again.

His recovery took nearly 10 years of surgeries and physical therapy, during which time he returned to UCLA as a part-time student. In 1974, at age 30, Esposito earned a degree in mathematics and entered the burgeoning field of computer programming.

“I look back at the accident, and yeah, I think it was a tough break,” Dean Esposito said. “But I’m still alive. I still received a first-class education. I still found a career I enjoyed and met a woman I love, and we still made a beautiful family.”

That woman is his wife, Mary (nee Duffy), whom Esposito married in 1979. While always an ardent fan of his beloved UCLA Bruins and the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association, basketball faded into the background for Dean – who moved steadily up the ranks at the Burroughs and later Unisys computer companies – until he and Mary’s first son, Walter, found himself in need of a youth basketball coach in 1987.

The coach of Walter’s Loomis Recreation Department team fell ill just before the start of the season, and in the 11th hour Esposito volunteered to step in. He hasn’t looked back since, coaching in the league every season since – even though his two children aged out of the youth basketball program decades ago.

“I just really enjoyed it,” Dean Esposito said. “In fact, I was a little surprised how much I enjoyed it, how much teaching these kids to play the game reminded me of my own childhood, and some of the great coaches I had, and what it was like to be a kid and play basketball.”

Not only has 25 years of volunteering earned Esposito the honor of having his high school gymnasium renamed in his honor, but his persistence paid off this season with a special personal treat: His 7-year-old granddaughter, Marissa, entered the youth basketball program this season, and of course laced up for Grandpa’s team.

“That was something special,” Dean Esposito noted. “Marissa loves basketball almost as much as I do.”

The ceremony honoring Dean Esposito is slated to begin at about 2 p.m. Feb. 11, after the final slate of games of the youth basketball season concludes, according to the Community Recreation Department.

“We hope everyone sticks around for the ceremony,” Mann said. “Dean Esposito has given 25 years of his life to this program and this community, and we want to make sure he knows how much it means to everyone in the Town of Loomis.”

About Dean Esposito
Dean Esposito, 68, is a lifelong resident of Loomis, California. A graduate of UCLA with a degree in mathematics, he retired in 2002 from the Unisys Corp. (formerly Burroughs). Dean Esposito and his beloved wife of 32 years, Mary, have two sons and four grandchildren. Dean is a longtime volunteer basketball coach with the Town of Loomis Department of Recreation.

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Ed Eshel