Whether coaching an athlete on the finer points of running a race, attending to injuries, keeping score at a basketball game or helping to further the education of the community’s athletes, Dave Klein has done it all.
Klein, who has taught subjects from physical education to physical science and coached sports including basketball, baseball, softball and cross country, retires this year after teaching at Patterson High School since 1987.
“When I walk around the community, I see people every day that, 35 or 40 years back, I coached,” he said. “To me, that’s priceless.”
He grew up in town, graduating from Patterson High in 1965. He enrolled and played football at Modesto Junior College and later, following a four-year stint in the U.S. Air Force, graduated from California State University, Stanislaus, in Turlock, where he received his teaching credentials in 1974.
Klein first taught full time at Patterson High in 1976, before returning to work at his family’s local grocery store for a decade. During that time, he also coached baseball for the Tigers’ freshman and junior varsity teams.
“When I went back to work at (Klein Super Save), it was financially the best thing for me to do for my family,” Klein said. “Once my father retired (in 1987), I went back to school to renew my teaching credential.”
Klein, 64, has been involved in local athletics in many different ways. He was a P.E. instructor at Sacred Heart Catholic School for two years before his service in the military. He has served as head coach for the high school’s varsity baseball, boys basketball, softball and cross country teams. And he has worked as Patterson High’s athletic director — a position he will retain — since 1993.
He received a plaque for his longtime service to the community at the Patterson High commencement ceremony on June 9.
“It was an unexpected honor to be recognized at the commencement,” he said. “Not many people knew that I was retiring. I just thought that everything kind of hit the heart.”
Klein became interested in teaching and sports when he was in high school and has enjoyed nurturing the athletic interests of local students.
He has seen many outstanding performances during his decades-long tenure, including the 1993 Patterson High baseball team that won 19 straight games on its way to a section championship and the 1996 section-titlist softball team.
But picking out a particular highlight is difficult.
“I’ve been fortunate to coach many really, really good teams,” Klein said. “Still, there are so many other teams that I coached that didn’t win a championship.
“Those teams may not have had a winning record, but there’s always something that each of them will be remembered for.”
In 1996, Klein was also named District Coach of the Year for both boys basketball and softball.
“The talent on both of those teams was just unbelievable,” he said.
For Klein, his proudest moment as a Tiger coach wasn’t when one of his teams was on top of its sport. It was when he coached his two children, Jennifer and Kelly, during their years at Patterson High.
“To see them both succeed were big highlights for me,” he said.
Klein also credits his wife of 35 years, Elizabeth Klein, for helping with a lot of the difficult behind-the-scenes work that often goes unnoticed at prep sporting events.
“(Elizabeth) is always there for me, no matter what it is,” he said.
Although his teams’ successes will cement his legacy, Dave Klein said he will remember his career as one filled with student athletes and coaches, rather than wins and losses.
“Every time I’ve walked away from something, I’ve known that it was the best thing for me to do. I don’t know yet if I’ll have any regrets about walking away from sports,” he said. “But it’s time for me to move on and let some of these younger people do the work.”