When Mike Henry looks back on his decades at Manteca High School, he’s drawn back to the basketball court.
That’s where for more than a decade he coached the Manteca High varsity boys team that still holds the distinction of being the last team at the school to win a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section hoops championship.
That’s where he forged friendships with other coaches that he still communicates with to this day – almost two decades after retiring from public education where he taught algebra.
And that’s where he was most at home, teaching students about the intricacies of the game and the life lessons that can learned from hustling for a ball going out of bounds or how to compose oneself while a raucous crowd tries to distract a shooter at the free-throw line.
“It was an easy bunch of kids to teach during those years because if you had any jerks on your basketball team, it was your own fault,” Henry said. “We had a lot of good kids that were willing to go out there and work hard and a lot of good coaches before me and after me that worked with those kids to make better players and better people.
“I loved coaching basketball and teaching at Manteca High School – it’s something that I look back on fondly.”
He was also named to the Manteca Hall of Fame in Education for his 27-year career at Manteca High School, and was named the Valley Oak League boys basketball coach of the year for the 1986-87 season.
Henry will be part of the handful of the coaches of yesteryear that will be honored this weekend at a banquet being organized by former Manteca High student Karen Steves-Ott – a chance for the pillars of Manteca High’s athletic success to once again be in the same room and share laughs that were common during the school’s heyday.
And they’re coming from as far away as Alaska to participate in the reunion.
“Of everything that I look back on, I think it was the camaraderie of the faculty and the coaches are what made my time at Manteca High such a joy,” Henry said. “I loved coaching basketball but I had to step away in 1996 because I didn’t want to do it full-time anymore – by that point it had become a 12-month commitment and I wanted to play some golf and do things like that.
“I did get to see the Manteca High boys win the State Championship a few years ago, and that was unbelievable to see those players do what they did.”
While he’s limited in his mobility these days, requiring either a walker or a wheelchair to get around, Henry said that the upcoming banquet isn’t anything that he’s going to miss – especially since he’s no longer able to get out and associate with even retired educators that still live in Manteca anymore, let alone those who moved out of state.
He said that it’s only fitting that Steves-Ott, who he said is one of the best female athletes ever to come out of the high school, is the one who is putting in the effort to make this a possibility – something that speaks volumes, he said, of her character and her love and loyalty to Manteca High School.
“It’s a tremendous thing that she’s doing here,“ Henry said. “It’s just a really great tribute to those coaches that touches so many lives while they were here.
“She was an outstanding athlete and one of the finest women’s athletes we’ve ever had come out of Manteca High School, but she’s also a great person and deserves a lot of credit for making this a reality.”
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