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Valencia coaches leave legacy

Vikings' recent success has a lot to do with its coaching staff

Posted: December 5, 2013 10:50 p.m.
Updated: December 5, 2013 10:50 p.m.
Valencia defensive coordinator Robert Waters, left, and head coach Larry Muir have helped build and maintain one of the area’s most winning football programs. Valencia defensive coordinator Robert Waters, left, and head coach Larry Muir have helped build and maintain one of the area’s most winning football programs.
Valencia defensive coordinator Robert Waters, left, and head coach Larry Muir have helped build and maintain one of the area’s most winning football programs.

Since 2005, Valencia has enjoyed enormous success without winning a CIF championship.

There has been one losing season in that time frame, five consecutive Foothill League titles, six trips to a CIF-Southern Section divisional semifinal and now a trip to the Northern Division championship game against Hart tonight.

In that span, there have been two constants in the Valencia program — head coach Larry Muir and defensive coordinator Robert Waters.

“I think it’s self-explanatory,” said Canyon head coach Rich Gutierrez on why they’ve been so successful. “Concerning the game itself, they prepare. They know how to get the most out of their kids. They squeeze every bit of effort. They get the kids to believe about success. They game plan, scheme and coach the finer aspects. It’s the little things that count, but there are few who can commit themselves to doing it. Larry and Robbie focus on the little things. You can see it from spring ball. Their teams get stronger as the season goes on.”

Since Muir took over as head coach in 2005, the Vikings are 77-33-1 and 14-7 in the playoffs — the best marks of any Foothill League program in that time span.

In those nine years, Valencia has had the top defense three times and has only been out of the top three once.

Foothill League rival coaches across the board privately compliment Muir and Waters for the job they’ve done — especially considering what they’ve done the last couple of years by winning league championships when outsiders thought they couldn’t.

The dynamic is an interesting one.

Muir is the touchy-feely coach, while Waters is the seven-letter-curse-word type.

“Honestly there are two things that stand out about Muir more than anything else, and to me they’re obvious,” Waters said. “You see them daily. One — he works harder than anyone I know, and two — he genuinely, genuinely loves the kids. You can see it every day in practice. He truly cares about every single player.”

Muir handles players differently than a lot of football coaches.

He’s not a screamer unless he absolutely has to and disciplines kids when necessary.

He connects with players by talking to them at their level.

And he counsels them.

It’s a reason why assistant coach Matt Nyberg is on the coaching staff right now.

The 2011 Valencia High graduate played at Pacific University of Oregon in 2012. He returned home for the summer unsure about his future.

He said he went to Muir for advice on what to do because he thought his old coach would have a better read on the situation than his own parents.

“He was my main role model,” Nyberg says. “I’m thinking, ‘Should I go back to college? Should I stay here?’ I came back because of the bond I had when I was here.”

Muir’s reach extends well beyond the football field, said Valencia Athletic Director Brian Stiman.

“The most important thing is to get the kids to love you, believe you and follow. He does that as well as any coach I’ve ever seen,” said Stiman, who built the Valencia program as its head coach from 1995 to 2004. “Same as his classroom.”

However, the football field is how you know him.

Muir was Stiman’s defensive coordinator until 2003. By then the pair had taken Valencia to two CIF title games (1999, 2001) — both losses to Hart.

In 2003, a 24-year-old Waters, who spent seven years working in the program, was promoted to defensive coordinator.

Muir took over as offensive coordinator and was the person who suggested Valencia become a no-huddle, spread offense.

The same offense where the state’s all-time leading passer Michael Herrick, New England Patriot Shane Vereen, UCLA Bruin Steven Manfro, former Florida Atlantic quarterback Graham Wilbert, former Oregon State receiver Shane Morales and All-CIF quarterbacks Alex Bishop and Sean Murphy flourished in.

The same offense that receivers Nick Jones, Jay Jay Wilson, Malik Townsend and quarterback Jake Wallace are flourishing in now.

No position has flourished better than the quarterback at Valencia.

“He’s masterful with the QBs — there’s no question about it,” Stiman said.

Muir was a linebacker at UCLA who reasons that being in that position allowed him to learn about quarterbacks.

Thus the success with the offense.

Valencia’s success with the defense involved a lot of belief early.

When Stiman promoted Waters, he was young, but not green.

“There was no question,” Stiman said of the promotion in 2003. “He understood the program. He understood Valencia from the perspective of what we stood for.”

Waters makes no bones about who he is — he’s hard and he gets his players to emulate that on the field.

Valencia, year in and year out, is a very physical team.

Sure, there has been a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball — including University of Minnesota’s Brock Vereen and Colorado’s Tedric Thompson. But there are countless guys who never played a high level of college football who he got the most out of.

A prime example is when Anthony Defilippo, a 5-foot-10-inch, 175-pound linebacker who had 24 sacks in 2004.

“One is the work ethic,” Muir said on why Waters is successful. “When I left being the defensive coordinator, the first thing that stood out to me is he’s far more detailed than I was. He’s a great, detailed coach. Very meticulous. There is not a thing that he lets go by. The second thing, as he became the defensive coordinator he grew. We were trying something or adjusted to something, if it went wrong he learned from it. He realized, ‘Forget it. That will never happen again.’ He has this knowledge that has grown immensely. He’s one of the best coaches out there.”

But more recognition comes with championships — not that these two care about notoriety.

Now the duo that has brought Valencia so much success has the chance to win a CIF championship.

A win against Hart tonight would be the culmination of years worth of work.

These two won’t take much credit for it. They’ll mention the other coaches around them, their mentors and those who believed in them.

But privately, they might be able to finally accept a reward for their work.


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