|By Jim Carnett |
(Jim was an Orange Coast College student in the early 1960s. Now in his 37th year as Director of Community Relations, he is editor of Coast-to-Coast. This is a regular column that focuses on OCC’s history and distinctive characteristics and characters.)
He coached more years and more teams at Orange Coast College than any other person in the school’s history.
George Raymond Mattias was an OCC coach for 45 seasons. He was an assistant football coach for 31 campaigns, from 1963 until his retirement in 1993. He coached the men’s tennis team for 14 years, 1973, and 1977-89. He was also an Orange Coast College professor of physical education and athletics for 30 years. He taught a variety of P.E. and health education classes over the decades.
During the spring of 2006, 13 years following his retirement, and at the age of 75, he reached the apex of his career when he was inducted into the California Community College Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He was feted a couple of years after OCC head football coach Dick Tucker was enshrined – a guy he’d worked with for 23 years.
“George is really deserving of the honor,” says Mike Taylor, OCC’s current head football coach, and former president of the Football Coaches Association. “His peers up and down the state hold him in the highest regard. He’s greatly admired and is considered a consummate professional.”
“Being inducted into the Hall of Fame was a huge honor,” George told me recently. “It was icing on the cake…the cap to a wonderful career at Orange Coast College.”
Coaches Fred Owens, Dale Wonacott,
Dick Tucker, and George
During Mattias’ 31 Coast football seasons the Pirates racked up a 173-131-5 record for a .569 winning percentage. The Bucs captured five conference championships and two national titles. In addition to working for Tucker for 23 years, George worked for Tucker’s successor, Bill Workman, for eight campaigns. George was as loyal an assistant as you’ll ever find, and an outstanding position coach.
“I loved working for Dick and Bill,” Mattias says. “They were great coaches and great friends of mine.
“Not once in my 31 football seasons did I ever not want to come to work. I loved coaching football…and I loved teaching classes. I retired at the age of 63 – and my wife, Barbara, says I retired too soon – but I think I was ready. I missed the coaching – and still do – but I didn’t mind giving up the recruiting, and I didn’t mind having Sundays off during the fall.”
George was in charge of the Pirates’ offensive line for 25 years, from 1969-93. He ranks as one of the finest line coaches in community college annals. Season in and season out his line was one of OCC’s major strengths. During his final Coast campaign, in 1993, the National Football Foundation and the College Hall of Fame presented him with the Outstanding Assistant Coach Award.
Which was his finest offensive line during his 31 seasons of coaching? Probably the ’75 outfit. The team went 11-0, and he had players on that line who went on to play at USC, Cal and at other major universities.
“They were good,” he concedes, “probably the best.”
As OCC’s head men’s tennis coach for 14 years his squads rolled up a 193-75-1 record for a .720 winning percentage. His teams won six conference championships and one Southern California title. They finished second in the state once, and fourth in the state twice. On two occasions, George was named the California Community College Men’s Tennis Coach of the Year.
Though his entire career was deeply satisfying, Mattias is particularly grateful for the fact that he had an opportunity to sample and savor OCC’s “golden days,” during the early 1960s.
“We were a small school then, and I got to know just about every faculty member on campus by name. Everyone was supportive of everyone else. I knew where to go if I had an athlete who needed help. There were many, many talented people on this campus.
“I once had a gas leak at my house in Mesa Verde, and several guys from the Technology Division came over and fixed it at no charge. We all pitched in and helped each other. Everybody on the staff – the faculty, administrators and secretaries – worked together and loved OCC! We had the same feeling on this campus that you’ll find at a small private college.”
TEAM…that’s a concept that George wholly understands and passionately promotes. Lone wolves, he knows, get picked off.
Born in Long Beach, Calif. in 1930, George was the son of John and Mabel Mattias, both native Californians. John was an oil worker. George was raised in Santa Fe Springs, and, as a teenager, lost his older brother, Ellery, in World War II. Ellery was a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot. George, who later became a licensed private pilot himself, has carried on a lifelong love affair with aviation.
George played football and basketball at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut. In 1949, he was a second-team All-Eastern Conference offensive end. That same season he played against coach Ray Rosso’s OCC Pirates, and Mt. SAC lost a tight 12-8 decision.
Mattias played both football and basketball against the Pirates. He went on to play football and baseball at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and was an all-conference performer in both sports.
“I was able to play three years of football at Santa Barbara after playing two at Mt. SAC,” George says. “In those days, if you played two seasons of JC football you automatically had five years of college eligibility.”
Mattias at UC Santa Barbara
In the fall of 1952, Mattias led Santa Barbara to an 8-2 season record in football. He was conference MVP, first-team all-conference, and UCSB’s team captain and MVP. United Press International named him to the Little All-Coast Team.
Mattias played two years of volleyball in the U.S. Army at Fort Ord, Calif., and was also a member of the Fort Ord football team. A leg injury, however, complicated by a staph infection and penicillin allergy, pulled the plug on his Army grid career.
During his college and military playing days he made acquaintance with a host of players and coaches who would later become his lifelong friends in the coaching profession.
“I played with Dick Gorrie at UC Santa Barbara,” George says. “He graduated a year ahead of me.”
George (26) picks up yardage for UCSB
Gorrie later coached for several decades at Santa Ana College. Dick and George faced each other innumerable times across the sidelines of LeBard Stadium and Santa Ana Bowl. Gorrie’s nephew later played for Coast.
“Dick and I were friends at Santa Barbara, then met again at Fort Ord,” Mattias recalls. “I was a private in a basic training company, and he was a lieutenant just getting ready to ship out to Korea.
“I spotted him as he was about to administer the final PT (physical training) test to my basic training company. As the test began, I got out of line and walked over to him. ‘George!’ he exclaimed, and he gave me a big hug. Well, we shot the breeze for the next couple of hours…for the duration of the PT test.
“Finally, the test was over, and I had to go back to my company. ‘Hey, Dick,’ I asked, ‘what do I do? I haven’t completed a single test category.’ ‘Here,’ Gorrie says, and he scribbles a bunch of numbers on my card. Well, I went back to my company, turned in my card, and when they totaled the numbers I’d recorded the highest score in the history of my basic training company! They gave me a steak dinner in the mess hall, and a three-day pass.
“Dick and I laughed about that for years.”
After a year-and-three-quarters at Fort Ord, Mattias spent several months at Camp Hunter Leggett in the Santa Lucia Mountains, 86 miles south of Ord on California’s spectacular central coast. He headed up the Hunter Leggett supply depot, dispensing light and heavy weapons to infantry units preparing for combat duty in Korea.
“We lived in tents. It was a beautiful but primitive area. It would get up to over a hundred degrees during the day, and below 50 degrees at night. The drive from the camp to Highway 1 on the coast was rugged and spectacular. The oak trees were huge. When you came through that final mountain pass and saw the ocean below, it was breathtaking…particularly at sunset. It was the most spectacular sight I have ever seen.”
Following his Army discharge in 1954, George completed his M.A. degree and general secondary teaching credential at the University of Southern California.
George (far right) coaching at
Santa Fe High
Mattias joined the Santa Fe High School staff in 1955, and served as the head varsity football coach from 1957-61. One of his players was Joe Gibbs, who went on to play at Cerritos College and San Diego State, and was an assistant coach at Florida State, USC and Arkansas. Gibbs later became head coach of the Washington Redskins of the National Football League, and led the Redskins to three Super Bowl championships. In 1996, Gibbs was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Mattias was at the ceremony.
“I enjoyed my time at Santa Fe High,” George says. “Families would move into the area and put their kids in school. Then, when they could afford it, they’d buy homes in the suburbs and move away. We had kids on our teams coming and going all the time.
“Joe Gibbs was one of the kids who stayed. He played three years for me. He was a great kid with a great attitude. I knew he was destined for big things. As coach of the Redskins, he’s known for his incredible work ethic. I’ve enjoyed following his career.”
Gibbs has never forgotten his old coach. They’re very much alike, and they’ve stayed in touch.
In 1988, Gibbs invited George to sit at his table at the Super Bowl Luncheon in San Diego. The Redskins were playing Denver in Super Bowl XXII at Jack Murphy Stadium. The Redskins won the game, 42-10.
“It was an honor sitting with Joe,” George says. “Also at the table was Harry West, a long-time football coach and athletic director in San Diego. Harry had been the head coach at Santa Fe High before I took over. He later won a CIF championship at La Jolla High School, and coached for years at San Diego City College.”
West brought NFL quarterback Warren Moon over to the table to meet Mattias. Moon, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, was playing at the time for the Houston Oilers.
“Harry says, ‘Warren, I bet you’ve never met George Mattias.’ Warren gives me a big smile, and we shake hands. I say, ‘Actually we met in 1974. I’m a football coach at Orange Coast College.”
Warren groaned. OCC beat the Warren Moon-led West Los Angeles College Oilers in the first round of the state playoffs that year. Moon, the best community college quarterback in the land in ‘74, was completely throttled by the aggressive and physical Pirate defense. OCC won the game, 62-15.
Moon completed 23 of 48 passes for 210 yards. He had three interceptions, one for a touchdown.
“Warren smiled and said, ‘I’ll never forget that game. It was the worst night of my life. We thought we were going to take you guys apart, but I couldn’t do a thing and we got smoked.’”
Moon went on to play for three years at the University of Washington, and 17 in the NFL.
In the fall of 1962, after his tenure at Santa Fe High, George moved to Brea-Olinda High School to become the varsity baseball coach and football assistant.
“When I got to Brea, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It was a great school, with a great athletic tradition, and great kids. Dick Tucker had been the head football coach there for 11 years, but left in ’62 to take the head job at OCC.”
At Brea, Tucker led the Wildcats to eight league championships and two CIF titles.
Mattias ended up spending just a year at Brea. Tucker recruited him away to OCC in 1963.
“Basil Peterson, president of the college, gave Dick another assistant coach position as a reward for his team’s 9-1 performance in 1962,” Mattias says. “I was having such a good experience at Brea that I never would have considered leaving on my own, but Dick made an offer that was pretty hard to turn down.”
Mattias didn’t know Tucker in ‘62.
“I knew of Dick, he had a great reputation as a coach, but I really didn’t know him. My older brother Clyde had played football with him at Whittier College. One day, in the spring of 1963, I was out practicing with my Brea baseball team. Tucker walks by the field and shakes my hand.
“‘I know who you are,’ I said. ‘You played football with my brother.’ Dick said he had a new assistant’s position available and asked me if I’d be interested in it. ‘Are you kidding me?’ I thought. He told me to submit an application, so I did and I was hired.
“As good as Brea was, it couldn’t compare with Orange Coast College. I had a great time at Coast. I couldn’t have worked at a better place in the world. It was a perfect fit for me.”
George’s first season as an OCC assistant football coach – 1963 – was a spectacular one. The Pirates went 10-0 and beat Northeastern Oklahoma A&M before 44,044 in the Junior Rose Bowl, 21-0. The Bucs were crowned national champions.
“What a year to begin my tenure at Coast,” George says. “That national championship was one of the highlights of my entire coaching career. That was a great defensive team. We shut out six of our 10 opponents. We were always confident that our defense could keep us in any game against any opponent we faced.”
Mattias coached both sides of the ball that season. He coached the offensive ends and defensive ends. The offensive ends were actually tight ends and wide receivers. The defensive ends were the equivalent of today’s outside linebackers.
“It was a magical season. We win our first five games of the year, then a sixth, a seventh and an eighth. The momentum just kept building, and the support we received from the students and faculty was amazing. We had pep rallies and packed stadiums…it was an amazing environment.”
Mattias remembers a pep assembly in Peterson Gym announcing the fact that the Pirates had officially been invited to the Junior Rose Bowl.
“The assembly was held right around the noon hour and the gym was packed. Dr. Peterson announced the fact that we’d just been invited to the Junior Rose Bowl. The place erupted. Peterson introduced Dick Tucker, and he received a standing ovation. I thought, ‘Man, this is a special place to work!’”
On media day at Pirate (LeBard) Stadium the week before the Junior Rose Bowl Game, Tucker decked his players out in their game uniforms to face media photographers and Miss Junior Rose Bowl.
“I brought my eight-millimeter camera and took a 10-second clip of every single player on our roster,” Mattias remembers. “After the season, Dick took the official Junior Rose Bowl film and spliced it with my footage and did the narration. He created a very nice tribute to the team. Today we have that footage on DVD…and we occasionally get together and watch it.”
Did Mattias expect OCC to crush perennial power Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, 21-0, in the Junior Rose Bowl? The Golden Norsemen were pre-game favorites.
“I was confident that we’d do well – we had great players – but I’d watched their guys on film and they had good players, too. I certainly didn’t expect a blowout. I think we surprised them a bit. They came out confident, but that afternoon we had everything clicking. We got it going early and just never let up.”
The best team won the game, and the contest was broadcast live by NBC to a national television audience. Chick Hearn did the play-by-play. Former Coast District chancellor, Dr. Norman E. Watson, has said on numerous occasions that that game was OCC’s “seminal event,” and “put the college on the map.”
In 1975, the Pirates went 11-0, won the Avocado Bowl, and claimed their second national crown.
“We knew going into the ‘75 season that we were going to be good,” George says. “Our ’74 team was almost all-freshmen. They won the conference championship that year, beat Warren Moon and his team and reached the second round of the state playoffs.”
Two of the key players on that team were quarterback Dave White and offensive tackle Jack Clark. Both were Edison High grads.
“During the summer of 1974 they were both ticketed for Golden West College,” Mattias recalls. “Then our ‘73 starting quarterback – who was scheduled to return in ’74 – went down with a knee injury during a summer practice and was out for the season. We let Dave know that we needed a quarterback and that he’d start for the Pirates if he came to Coast.”
He brought Clark with him. Both became JC All-Americans. White ended up transferring to Oregon State and Clark went to Cal.
“They jumped ship at Golden West to come to Coast, and the Pirates got two nuggets.”
During White and Clark’s two seasons at OCC the Bucs won 18 games, and White threw for 2,897 yards and 22 touchdowns. OCC beat Rio Hondo in the Avocado Bowl in ’75, 38-14, to claim the national championship. White was the game’s MVP.
“Two national titles in one career is pretty special,” Mattias reflects.
The Golden West coaches were no doubt displeased with the 1974 last-minute “false start infraction” by White and Clark.
“We had a bitter rivalry going with Golden West over the years,” Mattias says with a smile. “Their coaching staff didn’t like us and we didn’t like them. Recruiting was fierce because we were in the same district going after the same high school players. We had some great wins as well as some heartbreaking losses in our series with the Rustlers.”
OCC’s record with Golden West during Mattias’ tenure was 12-14-2. The Pirates beat the Rustlers during George’s final two seasons.
“I think all the coaches on both staffs have mellowed as we’ve gotten older. When we run into those guys now, we’re friends. It was a fun – though intense – rivalry.”
Tucker retired from his head coaching chores after the 1985 season and Bill Workman, who’d been a highly successful high school coach at Edison, took over.
“When Dick hung it up I was 55 but I still wanted to keep on coaching,” George says. “I knew Bill Workman – I’d recruited on his campus – but I didn’t know if he wanted me or not. So I just kept my head down for a while.
“One Saturday I was out mowing the lawn and Workman pulled up in his car. ‘Hey,’ he says, ‘you’re gonna help me aren’t you?’ ‘Nobody asked me,’ I replied. ‘Well I’m asking you,’ Bill said. I think I was able to help him with the coaching transition. I was able to teach Bill the nuances of OCC football.”
Mattias had close personal and professional relationships with both Tucker and Workman.
“They were great coaches and great guys. Bill was more intense…more emotional. Dick was even-keeled and always positive. He looked at the bright side of things. Win or lose, Dick would always say, ‘The sun’s gonna come up tomorrow.’ Kids liked to play for both of them.”
George coached his first OCC tennis team in 1973.
“Maurie Gerard was the head tennis coach and he was a great coach…one of the best. He loved OCC football and would sit with us in the coach’s booth in the press box on game nights. He was a big help. When we couldn’t figure out why a particular play wasn’t working we’d say, ‘Follow number 44, Maurie, and tell us what he’s doing.’ He and I became great friends.”
Gerard took a sabbatical in ’73.
“He asked me if I would take over his tennis team for the season. I said, ‘Maurie, I can play tennis but I’ve never coached it.’ Maurie said, ‘Don’t worry; I’ll get everything ready for you. It’ll be a piece of cake.’ I know why Maurie went on sabbatical that year. He had the worst tennis team in OCC’s history. I mean they were really bad.”
George did everything he could with them, but they still went 3-13 for the season. Mattias vowed never to coach tennis again. Gerard came back the following year, then retired a few years later.
OCC president, Dr. Robert B. Moore, called Mattias into his office in 1976 and asked him to become the permanent men’s tennis coach.
“I wasn’t excited about it, but I told him I’d do it if I could still have time to recruit football players during the spring. He agreed. I also cleared it with Dick.”
George took time to study the game of tennis, in depth. He attended clinics and talked with many college coaches.
“I applied football coaching principals and techniques to tennis, and it seemed to work. I had my tennis players do some of the same agility exercises that I made my offensive linemen do.”
While he was permanent tennis coach, from 1977-89, George’s teams rolled up a 190-62-1 record for an impressive .754 winning percentage.
“I got to the point where I really enjoyed coaching tennis. We had lots of success, and a lot of excellent players. Once we started winning matches and championships, the recruiting took care of itself.”
Dr. Donald Bronsard, Dr. Al Fernandez, George, and Walt Howald
In addition to his teaching and coaching chores at OCC, Mattias served 15 years on the Board of Directors of the Orange County Chapter of the March of Dimes. Since retiring in 1993, he’s been a member of the Board of Directors of the Orange Coast College Emeritus Foundation.
“There are no words to describe how I feel about this school,” he told me a few weeks ago. “Retiring was hard, but I’ve remained attached to the college through my involvement with the Emeritus Institute. I’m frequently back on campus, and I enjoy that. This place will always be home to me.”
Mattias still attends every home football game each season, as well as many on the road. George and his wife, Barbara, have been married 52 years. They have five sons, nine grandchildren and one great grandchild. Though scattered across the country, all are Pirate fans.
They have no choice.
George Mattias has taught them much about life. At the top of his list are the twin values of commitment and loyalty. As a friend, coach, father, grandfather and husband…GM is as loyal as they come.
He’s a Pirate for life!
WE GET LETTERS….
Let me thank you again and again for the beautiful article you wrote about Richard Raub, my husband, several months ago (“Richard Raub: Respected by Musicians and Critics the World Over,” Orange Slices, April 26). Your timing was unbelievable. What a surprise and joy to be remembered such, so many years later.
I now write to tell you that Richard is in Hospice Care at our home in Colorado Springs, CO. He battled lymphoma for over eight years and had a very difficult time with the last recurrence. The cancer just got too much for his frail body and we made the decision in mid-September to forgo any additional chemotherapy.
I don't know how much longer we will have him, but not too long. If I could ask a favor, perhaps you could add something to the newsletter letting people know of his situation. We will be having a memorial service in California sometime in the future and there will be music!!!!!! When that will be I do not know, but some OCC people might want to be informed. Richard loved teaching and OCC. Many of his former students stay in contact. As he said in his last written email to friends and family:
"The main reason for writing is simply to say that having your friendship is a gift of invaluable worth. I wish that I could call each of you out by name. I can never repay what you have given me. BLESSINGS AND LOVE ALWAYS ON EACH ONE OF YOU.
Always see the good!"
I am sure this includes the entire OCC family as well. Thank you for your willingness to print this, Jim. I do appreciate it.
As always I appreciate and anticipate each issue of Coast to Coast. I was particularly impressed with the article on Cornelius Steelink and the Chemistry Program at OCC (“Down OCC’s Memory Lane With Cornelius Steelink”). The reason I was impressed was because when I was a student at OCC (1975-77) my Chem 110 lab instructor was Allen Herman! He did a great job then, and it is good to know he is still at it.
Kudos to you Allen!
Dan Farrell, M.Ed, RRT-NPS, CPFT, EMT-B
OCC Professor, Allied Health
Clinical Director, Respiratory Care Program