Coaching legend calls it a career after 547 wins

Lenz on Cordova: ‘Those were the best years of my life’

During a huddle in the famous 1986-87 season, Coach Bob Lenz exhorts the Wolverine Express. CHS school annual photo

The coach who guided the Cordova High boys to their best single-season record and established the mark for longest tenure as CHS mentor is retiring.

In the 1986-87 season, Bob Lenz’s Wolverines raced to a 29-1 mark, and it was only the call of his alma mater, Melba High, that drew the popular Cordova coach back to Idaho in 1998 after 19 years on the sidelines of CHS Court.

It was a dramatic and unforgettable loss to arch-rival Anchorage Christian in the semi-finals of the 1987 State 3A tournament the spoiled Cordova’s perfect season and denied them a shot at the state title.

Ironically, one of the victories in that 86-87 season was at Melba, when the run-and-gun Wolverines Express romped past the Mustangs with a speed memorably described by an Idaho Statesman sportswriter as “a cold north wind from Alaska.”

In his years at Cordova, Lenz guided Wolverines to four 3A state tournaments, and his squad finished third in that fateful 86-87 season. He came to Cordova via Bethel, where he coached for two years. His squad captured the Alaska Small School State title that second season.

Lenz went on to have a stellar career at Melba, including 10 trips to the Idaho 2A State tournament, and the program’s only state title in 2011.

Cordova Coach Bob Lenz and Valdez Coach Dan Eide harassing future Wolverine Reggie Guerrero at a CHS Homecoming.
CHS school annual photo

In his 41 years on the sidelines, which included 21 in Alaska, Lenz complied a career record of 547-464.  Lenz has always downplayed his accomplishments, and it was his son David who compiled the data and spread the word when Lenz reached the 500-victory mark.

“When you’ve coached for 41 years, you ought to win a few games,” Lenz joked. “I don’t know how good of a record that is.”

Several of Lenz’s players have gone on to become high school coaches, including Brandon Blake at Palmer, Rob Galosich at Dimond and South High in Anchorage, and Reggie Guerrero, way across the Pacific in Guam. Bob’s son David now coaches the Melba girls’ basketball team, with his brother Dennis serving as his assistant.

Fondly known as “Lenzo” in Cordova, Lenz had a special way of developing relationships with students, players, coaches and referees.

“I just loved being around kids; they kept me young for a long time, and that is definitely the hardest part to give up.”

While in Cordova, Lenz was known as the ringleader in a special group of 3A Aurora Conference coaches that included Dan Eide at Valdez and Mike Lessley at Eielson. The trio brought Aurora Conference play to a highly competitive level and had a great fun pulling pranks on each other in the process.

Throughout his career, Lenz has been recognized not only for coaching winning basketball, but also teaching respect, discipline and sportsmanship.

“He’s set the standard for what a coach is expected to do, and the way he runs his program from top to bottom is what I’d like to see from everyone,” said Melba Athletic Director Casey Clark.

Lenz still remembers his years in Cordova.

“Those were the best years of my life,” he said. “I have so many memories of the kids, their parents and the people I worked with. I was truly blessed to be there, and Cordova will always hold that special place in my heart.”

The Lenz family has seen a lot of basketball in 41 years. And they will see more. Bob is retiring; David and Dennis are coaching the Melba girls. From left, Bob, David, Deb, Dennis and Daniel.
Lenz family photo

Lenz doesn’t have any immediate retirement plans, but he may have a new athletic director to give him some suggestions.

“I’m sure I’m going to do my wife’s honey-do list,” he joked. “I’ve got five acres, and most of it is weeds, so I’ve got plenty to do.”

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Dick Shellhorn, author, reporter, ref and grandpa, can be reached at Shellhorn was born and raised in Cordova, Alaska, and has lived there his entire life. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 40 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016 and third place in 2017.