By BRIAN REED-BAIOTTO, Sports Editor One of the Pasadena area’s most prominent football coaches decided on Monday that the time was right to tackle a new opportunity. La Salle’s Russell Gordon announced he was accepting a role at Antelope Valley College as an offensive coordinator and director of football operations. Gordon took over a La […]
By BRIAN REED-BAIOTTO, Sports Editor
One of the Pasadena area’s most prominent football coaches decided on Monday that the time was right to tackle a new opportunity.
La Salle’s Russell Gordon announced he was accepting a role at Antelope Valley College as an offensive coordinator and director of football operations.
Gordon took over a La Salle program in 2012 that a year prior had gone 1-9.
He made an instant impact, as the Lancers started 10-0 in his first season with the school.
Gordon was also the assistant athletic director and an admissions officer.
As much as he loved the school, the students and his program, there were too many things that came along with this new job that made it near impossible for Gordon to turn down.
He’ll be much closer to home and can look in on his mother who became a widow just over a year ago, and his wife also wants to be able to help her own father through some health issues as well.
It wasn’t the deciding factor, but having a mortgage in the Lancaster area and paying rent for a house in Duarte to be close to La Salle added up over time.
He insisted the decision to stay or go was his alone.
Gordon’s program won 36 games in his tenure, including the school’s first playoff win in 10 years.
The Lancers defeated Mayfair, 27-17, back on November 11, 2016.
His most impressive feat, though, as we mentioned earlier, was the instant success he had after taking over a team that went a combined 1-19 in 2010 and 2011.
Gordon’s Lancers won the first 10 regular season games with him as the head coach.
They went on to go 19-1 in the regular season in his first two years at La Salle.
Perhaps the best measuring stick of a man’s impact on a program are the lessons he imparts upon his players.
Jake Caan, who was the Lancers’ quarterback in 2016 and son of movie star James Caan, wanted people to know about Russell Gordon the man, and not just as a coach.
“I came to La Salle because of Coach Gordon,” Caan said. “I love that man so much, because he was and is like a second dad to me. He always made sure we were doing well in life and in the classroom before football ever came up. He always made sure we had access to help when it was needed and I am so loyal to that man because of all he did for us. It is really sad that La Salle won’t have him around anymore.”
One of this reporter’s most enduring memories was how close and how much time Gordon spent with his fellow coaches, and men that he considers his brothers.
I’d come to La Salle to interview a football player for a story that would run later in the week, and then go into the Lancers’ gym to cover a volleyball match.
After the match was over and interviews were done, just as I was about to leave campus, you’d see Gordon and his entire staff still in the coaches office going over their game plan for the week.
One thing that can be said for certain is that no program that employs Russell Gordon or his staff will ever get shortchanged.
He cleared out his office and did so with a wave of emotions going through his head.
“I love this school and these kids so much,” Gordon said. “It is so hard to have to say goodbye to them. I had to look out for my family and their well being and I can spend some time around my kids. I want every player and their parents to know it was the honor of a lifetime to be able to play some small part in your child’s life.”
Former La Salle defensive end Myles Cecil: “He brought me in and trusted in me from the start and gave me a shot to play at a higher level. He would always tell you the truth, whether you wanted to hear it or not. He helped me become better than I thought I could be through his hard word and dedication.”
Offensive coordinator Willie Tuitama: “I think Coach G did a great job of laying a foundation at La Salle. When we first got there, they had won one game in two years and we went 10-0 the first year, because of the structure and foundation that he built. I was happy to be a part of it. Being with a guy that was a head coach for so long and with the knowledge that he had really helped me learn. He knows a lot about the high school game, especially coming from being a college player. It helped me adjust to high school level again, and how to be successful. Part of the thing that Coach G preaches is family. It’s a strong brotherhood working with him. He was not only a good coach, he was there for the kids in academics, grades or whatever, he wanted to help.”
Defensive coordinator Randy Katz: “I coached with him for 19 years, and his football experience is beyond reproach. We’ve been through many battles and he’s a really good friend of mine. We tried to build a program at La Salle and it’s been a hard time for me to believe he’s gone. I got married recently and he was my best man. That tells you what I think of him.’
La Salle junior Cristian Reyes: “Coach Gordon was a role model to me. He is the reason why I’m at La Salle. He helped bring me to La Salle and helped me adjust to the school. It hurts that he’s leaving, because he was always there for me. Walking into his office and him not being there really hurt. I have lots of love for Coach Gordon.”
La Salle senior Joey Rivera: “He put our interests first and above all, and tried to give us all an opportunity and make a difference in our lives. Coach Gordon gave me a chance when I had been off a year from injury and he believed in me before I believed in myself. He is going to be successful at whatever he does, because he puts in the work to be the best he can be.”
Former La Salle linebacker Jake Rose: “He had a really positive impact on me, because he always pushed me to be a better player on the field, and more importantly, a better person off it. He pushed me harder than I have ever been pushed and cared more about us as people than athletes. It took me by surprise they would let him leave the school because of the kind of leader, coach and man that he is.”