Coach Wright bids adieu to La Verne

Head baseball coach and professor of movement and sports science, Owen Wright, a member of the University of La Verne's staff since 1983, will retire this month. He still keeps close to him the Division III National Championship team he coached in 1995 and will miss looking upon the teams from which he molded a tradition of winning. / photo by Scott Harvey
Head baseball coach and professor of movement and sports science, Owen Wright, a member of the University of La Verne’s staff since 1983, will retire this month. He still keeps close to him the Division III National Championship team he coached in 1995 and will miss looking upon the teams from which he molded a tradition of winning. / photo by Scott Harvey

by Erica Aguilar
Editorial Director

It has been 15 long, spectacular years of coaching at the University of La Verne for Owen Wright, professor of physical education, who will retire this month. But for Wright, he will take with him fond memories of ULV when he moves to Oregon next month.

In 1983, Wright moved to La Verne and began coaching baseball and soccer at ULV. He coached at Elizabethtown in Pennsylvania for 21 years, both soccer and baseball until the move to La Verne.

“I coached 60 soccer players a year and 25 baseball players a year while I was at Elizabethtown,” Wright said. “At ULV, I coached 25 soccer players and 30 baseball players a year.”

While at Elizabethtown, Wright coached an estimated 1,260 students in soccer and 525 in baseball. At ULV, he has coached 325 students in soccer and 450 in baseball. This gives him an estimated 2,560 students he coached during his college career.

Wright was born in a farm house in the small town of Ottobine, Va., March 29, 1933. He received his bachelors in physical education from Bridgewater College in Virginia in 1958, his masters in physical fitness from the University of Illinois in 1961 and his doctorate in human anatomy and exercise from the University of Oregon in 1971.

He also joined the United States Coast Guard in 1951 during the Korean War and was in the military for three years.

“I’ve always loved playing games, and I always thought if I could find somebody to pay me to play games, that I would do that. My mother often would say, ‘I can’t believe that anyone would pay you to do what you do,’ in a joking way,” he said.

Wright married 1955 ULV alumna Patricia Meuli on June 9, 1957, in Bridgewater. She was his college teacher in Virginia but is four months younger than him.

“My wife and I are moving to Oregon when I retire to be close to some of our grandchildren. We are going to become farmers and probably work with horses,” Wright said. “We’re going to travel a lot to see the rest of our children.”

Wright has six children, one biological daughter, Lani, who graduated from Bridgewater College, and five adopted children, Keelee, Shawn, Rodlee, Tricia and Ian, three of which graduated from ULV.

Wright said his most memorable moment of coaching at ULV was winning the National Baseball Championship in 1995 in Virginia, only 80 miles from where he was born and raised. This compares to his most memorable coaching moment overall, which was winning a National Soccer Championship at Elizabethtown in 1967.

Wright began coaching at the collegiate level at the early age of 27. In the summer of 1979, Dwight Hanawalt called Wright and asked him to come to La Verne to start a new coaching career, and Wright agreed to do so in 1983.

“I have coached baseball for 15 years here and soccer for 13 years,” he said.

However, Wright decided to hang it up before this season.

“I planned to retire when I was 65 quite a while ago, and I turned 65 in March. I’m not retiring because we have a losing season. Before we ever started this year, I thought we would be better than what we are, record wise, so that did not make me quit. This was a decision I had made four to five years ago,” he said.

Wright and his wife will head to Oregon following Commencement in May. They will live on a farm 15 miles from the University of Oregon.

His biggest disappointment this season was not the fact that the baseball team had a losing season, but that it took a while to draw the team together.

“Winning is not all there is to coaching sports, certainly not at a Division III level because all the players are here to get an education,” said Wright.

Last Saturday was the last and final time Wright would walk down the third baseline and coach at Ben Hines Field. He gained his 600th win in baseball against Pomona-Pitzer this season.

“I will miss the camaraderie of being part of a unit. Team sports to me have always been important because you’re not doing something for yourself,” Wright said, “but instead you’re trying to work together in a cohesive way to get results, and that is the reason why I enjoy team sports more than individual sports.

“I have anticipation that this young team will experience a lot of good things next year with the new, young coach, and I will be watching with great anticipation how well they do.”

This spring is the 70th team in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference that Wright has coached, which includes 34 soccer teams and 36 baseball teams.

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