In one of his many maxims, legendary basketball coach John Wooden once said, “The coach is first of all a teacher,” and while not everyone looks at the position that way, Colusa girls basketball coach Darren Townzen has epitomized the concept, continually devising innovative methods to convey the nuances of the game to his players.
Yet despite his dedication to and passion for the sport, Townzen determined that after nearly 30 years on the bench, the last six at the helm of the RedHawks’ varsity girls, that the time had come to pursue new adventures.
“When I joined the girls basketball program it was an opportunity for me to spend more time sharing my favorite sport with my daughters. As they graduated from high school and then college, it felt like the time I was spending coaching in the summer and during the season was starting to prevent me from spending time with them,” said Townzen of his decision to step down.
Nonetheless, Townzen’s efforts were not lost on his players, as Annie Lay, a four starter who graduated in 2020 explained, “Coach Townzen is the type of coach who inspires you to be a better person on and off the court every day. He modeled professionalism, a great work ethic and a joy for life that motivated his teams. The women’s basketball program will dearly miss his guidance and leadership.”
A true student of the game, over the years Townzen has been exposed to a variety of basketball philosophies, but says that he was most influenced by the coaches he played for, and growing up in Colusa, the list reads like a “Who’s Who” of Colusa basketball including the likes of Dave Armocido; his father, Dale Townzen; Don Bransford; Tom Vedo and Jim Vossler.
Still, when it comes to the individual that had greatest impact on the way he has taught the game, it is without question, his father.
“My life as a coach has been a journey of learning how to teach the lessons that I learned from my coaches, but the coach at the top of the list is my dad. He taught me that basketball is the best game and was always ready to share his wisdom and that of others, especially that of John Wooden.”
Townzen, who coached JV girls and boys teams at Woodland High School before returning to his alma mater to teach math and coach the varsity boys, became involved with the RedHawk girls program in 2009, when he joined then JV coach Jerry Davies as an assistant, and feels that experience helped consolidate the many different components he learned about coaching basketball.
“I am especially grateful to Jerry for giving me the chance to join him. His example helped me to see how to put many of the things that I had learned from other coaches into practice,” said Townzen who continued to coach along side Davies until the latter retired at the conclusion of the 2014 season.
When asked about special memories Townzen said that choosing one was impossible because there had been so many over the years, yet always the teacher, replied in this fashion, “ A lot of my favorite moments involve watching the players execute something that we have practiced together. I love it when multiple players put it all together at the same time. For me it is even better when it comes from their own understanding of how to play the game and their desire to succeed together.”
As he reflected on what he will miss most about coaching basketball Townzen mentioned not only going through the intensity of the season with his players and the enjoyment of watching the team mature and improve, but also recounted the camaraderie he had with Davies as well as with his assistant for the past four seasons, Eric Lay.
“It was really fun to sit on the bench with both Jerry and Eric. I have always spent a lot of time with basketball running through my brain and I really enjoy having someone to talk to about it.”
Lay, who also serves as the RedHawks’ athletic director, had nothing but praise when describing what Townzen has meant to the girls basketball program saying, “Coach Townzen is all you look for in a head coach. He’s passionate, detail-oriented and always has the best interests of his athletes in mind with every decision he makes. His players benefited from his guidance and dedication to them. He’ll be sorely missed.”
So as the curtain descends on his high school basketball coaching career, Townzen also acknowledged his wife, Julie, another person that contributed to his ability to do something he loved for so long.
“There were a lot of times that everyone in the family had a day off, but we stayed home so that I could be at practice or a game. I would not have been able to do it without her support.”
Thus, while Townzen will no longer be in the coach’s chair, he will continue to teach math and coach cross country at Colusa High School, and of course find time to simply enjoy watching the game of basketball. ♣