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In 1999, former Long Beach State baseball star Carl Buggs came from Lynwood High to Poly High to coach boys volleyball. Today, his reputation as an all-time great girls basketball coach is cemented in stone.


After coaching both volleyball and basketball, Buggs’ daughter came in as a freshman and both decided to stick with basketball.


Buggs was a good athlete and a natural hitter as a child whose first love was baseball. He was a well-rounded athlete at Castlemont High in Oakland – the school produced baseball Hall of Famer Joe Morgan and NBA standout Cliff Robinson, and Buggs is in the school Hall of Fame with both – and chose to play college baseball for Long Beach State.


As a freshman, Buggs was good enough to play on the varsity and energetic enough to also suit up for the JV team. “There would be days when I’d play a JV game in the day and with the varsity at night,” he said. “I think I played 80 games that season.”


Buggs, a fine centerfielder on two winning 49er teams in the mid-’70s, had his big league dreams shattered by a rotator cuff injury that required three surgeries. That time, his fate wasn’t so easy to accept.“


I can still see Carl trying to throw,” said Gonzalves, the 49er Hall of Fame coach. “He couldn’t raise his arm. He had a quarter-delivery throwing with obvious pain, and I remember feeling so bad that his career had hit this wall. If the medical techniques of today had been around, it could have been corrected. But not back then.”

“I’d say it took me about five years to accept that (baseball) wasn’t going to happen,” Buggs said, “It took me five years to stop dropping my head over it.”

And yet Buggs emerged from that broken dream a stronger man and – though he didn’t know it at the time – a better-equipped coach.

“Even when I had surgery and was going through rehab I was always looking for ways to help the team,” he said. “I couldn’t throw with my right arm so I tried to learn to throw left-handed. And even then I still had my legs. I’d always warm up about the fifth inning and be ready if coach wanted to use me on the bases.

“Subconsciously, even then I was preparing myself for this. I’d been a starter on the team to where I was injured and couldn’t play and then couldn’t get off the bench because the guy ahead of me was playing better than I was.”

In that troubled time, Buggs picked up the broader experience a coach needs.

“As a coach, you have to make everybody feel valuable no matter what they contribute,” Buggs said. “You have to appreciate the little things that are necessary for a team to succeed and if you haven’t had to struggle you might not be able to do that.


“I definitely learned a lot from those times that helped me as a coach.”

Those who only know Buggs as the man who has built the Poly girls basketball program into a juggernaut might be surprised to know he spent 16 years honing his craft at Lynwood High, where he built the boys volleyball program from scratch. By the time he came to Poly, Lynwood was a volleyball power and Buggs was primarily known as a volleyball coach.


The switch to girls basketball wasn’t difficult for Buggs.


“I think it’s just more dealing with people,” he said. “A lot of things are interchangeable in sports. If you create a positive structure, an organized, hard-working environment with discipline and you teach the kids about commitment, and you find kids that buy in, it breeds itself.”


Buggs always has been willing to learn, which quickly accelerated his solid basketball knowledge to something more at Poly.


“I just love coaching and the kids kind of see that,” he said. “I know the game. Plus you try and go out and get more information as you start.


“Really what it’s about is taking from different people and applying your own philosophy. I’ve always been an up-tempo, enthusiastic coach no matter what the sport is. That’s our style now. We try to impose our will on the opponent.”


Before the girls really got rolling, however, Buggs had to impose his will on the girls. That is, he had to raise the program’s off-the-court standards.


“The first thing we had to do was clean house a little bit, establish how we wanted the program to carry itself, with character, dignity and being academically sound,” Buggs said. “It wasn’t like that the previous years. There were good athletes, but they were undisciplined.”


Poly athletic director Rob Shock, who also came to the school in 1999, appreciates the job Buggs has done, off the court as well as on.


“He sets the standard for what you want all your coaches to be,” Shock said. “It’s a great product. It’s about the kids academically, it’s about discipline, it’s about accountability.


“(Poly’s success) is a representation of the hard work the kids have put in, and the goals and objectives that he sets for his kids and his program. He’s producing great citizens for the community.”

(adapted from Daily News March 3, 2009 & OC RegisterFebruary 25, 2014)

(aka MRS. BUGGS)

La Keisha Buggs plays several different roles as an assistant coach for Poly High’s girls basketball team. She’s the squad’s perimeter shooting coach, critiquing form and technique, and also handles many of the administrative duties for head coach Carl Buggs, who also happens to be her husband. Her calm demeanor also acts as a balance to her husband’s intensity in practice and during games.

But perhaps her most vital role is that of a second mother figure and confidant for many of the Jackrabbits, to whom she’s affectionately known as “Miss Buggs.” She can provide an ear to bend or a shoulder to cry upon, but can also apply a swift kick to the backside (figuratively, of course) when appropriate.

“I help out in any way I possibly can,” she said, “whether it’s family situations or any type of issues they have. I’m always here to support them.”

Buggs is a beloved member of the Poly extended family, and often finds herself on the receiving end of enormous hugs doled out by former players who’ve come back to visit. As the only female member of the coaching staff, she often acts as a sounding board or buffer for players between themselves and the rest of the staff.

“Sometimes it’s hard (for girls) opening up to males,” Carl Buggs said. “As a female, she’s kind of a mother-type (figure) to the kids at times. She gives them a female they can relate to.”

But, Carl added, she’s also wise to the games often played by young girls.

“Ain’t nothing they can say that she’s hasn’t done already, hasn’t been through already,” he laughed, “so she can come back at them with, `Don’t give me that crap.”‘

In addition to a lot of administrative chores, Buggs also often acts as disciplinarian and team chaperone on the road.

“I’m pretty much old-fashioned so I like to make sure the girls present themselves well and look nice,” she said.

“She takes really good care of us,” said junior forward Jada Matthews. “She nurtures us like any of our mothers would.”

“Whatever we need help with, she’s there,” agreed junior guard Arica Carter. “Everybody is very close to Miss Buggs and can talk to her about anything.”

Over the years of coaching together, Keisha and Carl have learned to keep basketball and home life in proper balance.

“It goes home sometimes,” Carl said, “but it doesn’t absorb us.”

(adapted from Press Telegram March 21, 2013)

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