The rationale for ‘Hughes Court’

By Brian Gomez

   Larry Hughes Court at Sammy Duane Gymnasium.

   That has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

   Hughes stepped down as boys golf coach at Corona del Sol High School this summer, ending an unprecedented, 27-year run in which he won six state championships in three different sports.

   He guided the Aztecs to four state titles and two runner-up finishes in girls basketball. He captured the school’s lone football state championship, which came in 1980 when Corona competed at the Class 4A level. And he laid the foundation for Corona’s boys golf program with third-place finishes in 1980 and ‘81 and a state title in ‘82.

   It’s only appropriate that Corona rewards Hughes by naming the basketball court after him.

   Duane’s name adorns the walls inside the large gymnasium and a plaque recognizing his accomplishments hangs in the lobby, not far from trophy cases bursting with hardware.

   If you look high above those walls and if you peruse those trophy cases with a careful eye, you’ll notice that Hughes has won as many basketball state championships as Duane.

   And if you take a second look, you’ll notice that like Duane, Hughes even has won back-to-back crowns. That’s pretty impressive.

   Larry Hughes isn’t Sammy Duane.

   He coached from his chair on the bench instead of the mid-court stripe. He let the players use the towels instead of throwing them over his shoulders. His preferred coaching attire was collared shirts and colorful sweaters, not bright orange and yellow sweaters that could have stopped traffic along Knox Road.

   But then again, Sammy Duane isn’t Larry Hughes.

   Duane stayed inside the gym, never venturing out to the football field or the golf course. Duane can fit his state championship rings on one hand. Hughes needs two hands. Duane’s last state title came three years before he retired. Hughes left the basketball court at the height of his career.

   Hughes and Duane are the most decorated coaches Corona has ever seen, and they deserve equal recognition.

   It wouldn’t be the first time that a Valley sports complex’s playing surface has been named after someone without changing the name of the stadium or arena.

   Take, for instance, Ned Wulk Court at Wells Fargo Arena. Or Frank Kush Field at Sun Devil Stadium. Or even better yet, Bobby Winkles Field at Packard Stadium.

   Corona Athletic Director Dan Nero considered naming the court after Hughes in December 2002 when Sammy Duane Gymnasium was born, but said that it would have been premature because Hughes still was the boys golf coach.

   Another reason Nero didn’t include Hughes was because Pat Reed, a former assistant on Hughes’ staff, was starting her first season as girls basketball coach and he wanted to avoid any added pressure on her.

   Now, the timing is right. Hughes is completely retired and Reed has established herself, taking the Lady Aztecs to the state playoffs in each of her two years at the helm.

   The humble Hughes never would ask Nero to name the court after him. Like Duane, Hughes doesn’t relish the spotlight, although there’s no reason why Corona shouldn’t shower him with the recognition he deserves.

   “It would be something really special,” Hughes said when asked about his name being emblazoned on the court at Sammy Duane Gymnasium.

   Only time will tell whether Corona considers Hughes special enough. Given his accomplishments, the decision should be easier than a layup.

Reach the reporter at brian.gomez@wranglernews.com.