Peter Diepenbrock, most famously, coached Jeremy Lin and the Palo Alto Vikings to the 2006 California State Championship in basketball. Although he has moved on from Paly, he still pops up around town now and again, for instance, he and Jeremy helped “christen” a new basketball single-hoop court at the Mitchell Park Community Center, which is another story.
Diepenbrock and I are the same age, both class of 1982. While my basketball experience pales in comparison, we did overlap in certain ways. In fact, I remember him from Dick DiBiaso’s Stanford Basketball Camp, when he and two of his Burlingame High teammates played with and against us Gunn and Paly guys, circa 1977-1980. (Okay, technically, we were Terman, Jordan and B.I.S players at the beginning of all that).
During Peter’s tenure at Paly, eleven seasons, I followed the local results distantly via the sporting news and boxscores, and then more avidly after Tom Jacoubowsky of Gunn asked me to organize a reunion of Gunn’s two championship teams 25 years prior (i.e. featuring players in classes 1980, 1981 and my 1982). Every once in a while I would share my anecdote about Diepenbrock with a player or their fathers (for example, to Duf Sundheim, who was briefly my attorney, and whose son played for Paly).
I remember that Diepenbrock was an excellent player, a point and shooting guard, most probably on the all-camp team. I remembered that we would wear a Seattle Sonics jersey, uniform number 1, for Gus Williams, who led the Sonics to the title and also was a part of the Warriors championship a few years prior. Williams was nicknamed “The Wiz” and for a while, according to my memory, we also half-jokingly, but partly in seriousness, called Diepenbrock “the Wiz”.
I relayed this recollection to Peter himself earlier this month when I noticed him eating with his former player Kheaton Scott at Peninsula Creamery and approached him to chat, for the first time in thirty years.
He was somewhat taken aback but also partly flattered, I would guess, that I hit him up about memories from so long ago. (I underplayed the fact that I am probably one of the most avid Gunn advocates and usually question the legitimacy or significance of the imbalance between the Gunn and Paly programs in major sports; for example, that it took Gunn 28 years to win another league title, during a spell that saw Paly win seven or eight).
He was particularly impressed that I recalled the names of his two teammates, Bruno Baldini and Kilty (who I called “Kelty”).
I mentioned John Paye as another notable alumnus of the camp, and Peter offered the fact that newscaster David Feldman (Paly, 1983, who also played for Tufts) was there.
My title here “The Wizard of Churchill Street” is a reference to John Wooden, “the Wizard of Westwood” and a compliment, although nobody calls or called Diepenbrock that, and you have to know that the Paly Gym is on Churchill Street, whereas the school’s main address is on Embarcadero.
Somewhere handy but not in hand today I actually have a Gus Williams trading card – I will try to add it here later.
I doubt I will get to it but I would be curious to hear Diepenbrock’s thoughts about the plan to replace Paly’s historic gym with a modern gym, to be donated by the billionaire real estate scions The Peery Family (whose members include a recent coach at Pinewood High). Peter told me he was taking time off from full time coaching to focus on his new family, but I also noticed, in fact-checking the above, that he does also run a youth camp of his own.
I generally think of any basketball player or athlete from my generation as a type of teammate; years later, does it really matter that we wore different colors and targeted opposite rims? At those camps we were always swapping sides anyhow. And nowadays gravity is our mutual opponent: the difference between being all-camp and just in-camp pales compared to the difference between being able to run and jump all afternoon — which is basically how I remember my childhood, from ages 8 to 16 or so, in all seasons — and today, negotiating and bargaining with myself, various joints and structures, the gods — my Wilt Chamberlain poster, my Julius Erving t-shirt — about just being able to move at all, relatively speaking.