Cabrillo to host Celebration of Life for iconic football coach Joe Marvin – Santa Cruz Sentinel

Cherished stories, jokes and “Marvinisms” will be told and relished as a limited crowd celebrates the life of iconic football coach Joe Marvin at the Sesnon House at Cabrillo College on Saturday afternoon. Libations will be raised in his honor long into the night, several invitees promised.

Marvin, inducted into Cabrillo’s Athletic Hall of Fame on Jan. 23, 2016, had an impact on players and coaches throughout the greater Bay Area. He died on Feb. 23 at the age of 93.

“He was a legend and he should be known that way,” said Bill Garrison, a former coach at Aptos High and Cabrillo.

Marvin had success at every level he coached. His Seahawks produced a collective 75-22-5 record and won four Coast Conference championships. He was voted CCCAA State Coach of the Year in 1979, after his team finished 11-1 with a loss to Taft in the state playoffs. The contest against Taft is said to have drawn the second largest crowd in Carl Conelly Stadium history, second only to a Willie Nelson concert.

Joe Marvin, who served as head football coach at Sequoia High in Redwood City from 1958-63 and Cabrillo College from 1974-83. (Contributed)

Blessed with a football mind, an eye for detail and the ability to educate and motivate, Marvin and his staff did their best to have the players prepared. He made things fun, too. He always phrases that left his players in stitches: “The guy is lost in high weeds,” “He’s standing around like an iron deer on the front lawn,” and “Move around, you’re killing the grass” were among the doozies .

He also had a revered “10 Football Commandments” that his players recited before each game and lived by on the field. One of the commandments, “Press the kicking game, for it is here the breaks are made,” became his signature phrase. He continued to use it long after he retired from coaching in ’89.

Retirement didn’t keep him away from the football field, nor did it slow him down. Vacations included cross-country road trips in a motor home with his wife of 70 years, Lila Jean. The destinations were often college football game featuring teams from Power Five conferences.

“Not too many wives would do that,” said longtime friend Bob Mazzuca, who coached against Marvin at the high school and college levels. “But she knew that was his passion.”

“He could talk football, any time, all day,” Mazzuca added.

Marvin had many passions, outside of making an impact on young men’s lives. He loved jazz – he met his wife Lila Jean at a jazz club in Hollywood and they were married in Santa Barbara 1951 – and they attended concerts and festivals in Sacramento, on the Santa Cruz Wharf and in Monterey. He also enjoyed hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains every summer.

“Obviously, it was a well-lived life,” said Soquel Athletics Director Stu Walters, who played quarterback for Cabrillo in 1977-78. “I cherish the memories I have with him.”

Cabrillo College coach Joe Marvin's
Cabrillo College coach Joe Marvin’s “10 Football Commandments.” (Contributed)

Marvin seemingly knew the names of every jazz musician, and he was no different when the conversation turned to football, and it often did. He knew names, jersey numbers, scores and stats of every major big game over multiple decades.

“He was a genius,” said Scotts Valley head coach Louie Walters, who played receiver for Marvin at Cabrillo. “He was a football almanac.”

He saw over 1,400 games and wrote entires in his journals of each. He collected game day football programs ..

“He had classic ones,” Garrison said. “I think his collection started in the 1930s. He had one that was the Stanford Indians versus the Dartmouth Indians. It was like a piece of art. He had a number of them. ”

Marvin was also a huge fan of track and field. He was a football and track standout at Mountain View and Piedmont highs and Santa Rosa Junior College before competing in football at UCLA. A back, Marvin lettered for the Bruins under coach Red Sanders from 1949-51. Marvin was chosen in the 19th round of the 1952 draft by the Washington Redskins.

Marvin coached varsity football at Sequoia High in Redwood City from 1958-63. His 1959, ’60 and ’61 teams went unbeaten, good for a 33-game win streak. The Cherokees won 51 of Marvin’s 58 games as coach.

His program was rated No. 1 in Northern California in ’60 and ’61, and he was named NorCal Coach of the Year in ’61. His teams produced such future collegiate stars as Gary Beban, Rich Koeper, Mike Otis and Bob Svihus.

Marvin later served as an assistant at Washington State (1964-65) and Cal (1966-70), coaching the backfield.

Marvin moved to Aptos in 1970 to join Cabrillo head coach Hal Mitchell’s staff. The two were teammates at UCLA. Marvin replaced Mitchell as coach in ’74 and remained at the helm for 10 seasons.

“He was such a man of intellect,” said Steve Cox, Cabrillo’s head coach from 1989-2006. “He was a great man in a lot of ways.”

Marvin gave Cox a tour of the campus when he was hired. While at the Sesnon House, he whispered to Cox, “Press the kicking game.” Cox thought it was until he later saw the 10 football commandments.

Louie Walters said Marvin’s beliefs and advice helped shape his program in Scotts Valley. Walters always put his starters on special teams and made it a point to recruit the best kicker in school to the program.

Marvin made it to at least one Falcons game each year, often with the late and great Pat Lovell, the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League’s longtime commissioner.

“On Tuesday, like clockwork, I’d get a hand-written letter on what he thought of the game,” Walters said. “It was in detail, at least two pages.”

Who does that? And hand-written? Marvin did. He also sent Walters a letter at the end of each season, congratulating the Falcons on their success. “That meant everything to me,” Walters said. “That was my mentor.”

Each letter ended the same way, “Stress the kicking game.”

MARVIN’S HONORS

Southern Peninsula Athletic League Coach of the Year, 1958-61
Northern California Coach of the Year, 1961
California Community College Coach of the Year, 1979
Community College Sports Hall of Fame
Coaches’ Hall of Fame
San Mateo County Sports Hall of Fame
Cabrillo College Athletic Hall of Fame

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