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After 32 years, Stricker steps down

EU athletic director celebrates retirement, sets stage for Eric Simoni to take the reins

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After 32 years, Stricker steps down

Outgoing East Union athletic director (left) celebrated his retirement at Chez-Shari Thursday evening.

Bulletin file photo/

POSTED May 30, 2009 2:19 a.m.
Outgoing East Union Dean of Athletics Bill Stricker celebrated his retirement alongside 100 of his closest family and friends Thursday evening at Chez-Shari.

The dinner was an opportunity to reflect on the 32 years of service Stricker has put in at Manteca’s second school, a span that saw the East Union athletic program develop into a tradition-rich foundation for countless student-athletes to thrive in.

Stricker, who followed former athletic director Dino Cunial and now passes the torch to former varsity boys head basketball coach Eric Simoni, is hard to miss.

The former UOP star and Portland Trailblazer stands out in any crowd, as Stricker usually towers over almost everyone he comes in contact with.

But according to Simoni, the size of the man isn’t nearly as big as the size of the man’s heart, which is why EU’s new athletic director credits a lot of his success to his mentor.

“If (Stricker) wasn’t there, it’s possible that I wouldn’t be who I am today. That’s the impact he’s had on my life,” Simoni said. “Bill is a man that first off, everyone respects, and the reason is simple: He’s a straight shooter, a man of integrity. He always lets you know what he thinks, there’s no hidden agenda.

“He’s got a heart of gold, he cares about people, and he realizes that while winning is important, relationships are more important.”

When Stricker first starting coaching basketball at East Union, he fell into a familiar trap that many new coaches must deal with – learning to separate his ego from his team’s success.

After five or six seasons, however, Stricker’s focus shifted from himself to his student-athletes, and that’s the point when he truly began to flourish at EU.

“When I started out it was all about me, and that was pretty shallow,” Stricker said. “But I started to figure out what it’s all about.

“It all stems from my values as a Christian. There’s a saying that the worst advertisement for Christianity is Christians themselves. I didn’t want to live my life that way. I didn’t want to make my Lord look bad.”

Stricker consistently taught himself and his coaches that children are not a tool to help coaches win games.

“Kids are a responsibility,” he said. “Parents put their lives in your hands, and you have a moral responsibility to help them do something with their lives and help them become better people. You want to teach them how to compete, that’s important as well, because we live in a competitive world.

“But that’s not the only thing.”

Stricker was the sophomore boys basketball coach at Tracy High during current EU girls head basketball coach Jim Agostini’s sophomore year at East Union.

Agostini idolized Stricker when the former UOP player used to travel through Manteca for the Parks and Recreation Department’s Tournament of Champions.

When Stricker was hired as EU’s varsity head coach before Agostini’s junior season, Agostini was ecstatic.

“He’s worn many different hats for many different people,” Agostini said. “For me he was a coach, a teacher, a mentor and eventually a consultant when I became head coach. He’s helped me with a lot of different issues in my life, and taught me many life lessons.

“He’s always done it the right way, and he’s shown everyone else how to do it as well.”

Agostini is also excited about Simoni stepping in to replace the East Union legend.

“The next guy is good guy too,” he said. “Eric’s a Lancer through and through.”

Stricker says that Simoni will work well at East Union. While Cunial was very detailed oriented and Stricker was more of a people person, Stricker says Simoni’s personality lands somewhere in the middle.

“Eric is a lot more balanced,” he said. “I was a bit too soft. I could be too nice at times because I wanted to be a good person, but I had to learn you can’t compromise on some issues.

“Last night (at the retirement dinner), you saw all sides of Eric’s personality when he spoke. He was funny, serious and emotional. He brings a lot to the table. He’s going to do a great job.”

Simoni, who started teaching at EU in 1997 and guided three Valley Oak League championship teams, will officially take over the reins after the last day of school at East Union, but that doesn’t mean Stricker’s time as a Lancer is over.

The former coach plans on taking the court once again as an assistant for East Union’s new varsity boys head coach, and will be a fixture at East Union athletic events for years to come.
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