2013: Bob Speidel, Championship Helix coach

The play on words certainly was not original.

Roger Conlee and I referred to Bob Speidel as “The Watchman”, in reference to his last name and to the company that made millions of timepiece wrist bands.

But Speidel was in the forefront of basketball coaches in the early years of the San Diego Section.  He guided Helix to championships  in  1964 and 1966 in the pre-Bill Walton era.  A basketball lifer, Speidel had several other stops along the way and never left the game.

According to Bill Dickens of U-T-San Diego, Speidel  most recently was a San Diego State season ticket holder with friend and former Monte Vista and Grossmont College coach Felix Rogers.

Speidel passed away on Jan. 6, 2013, at age 80 from complications of lung cancer.  “What is really strange is that he never smoked a day in his life,” Rogers told Bill Dickens.

I was a prep writer for the Evening Tribune in 1964 when Helix  took on La Jolla for the San Diego Section title.  It was the first finals matchup between  city and  county squads. Hoover won in 1961 and ’62 against city opponents and Crawford defeated a city opponent in 1963.

La Jolla had been extended in a 78-70 semifinals win over Lincoln the night before and Helix had struggled but eliminated Chula Vista, 49-43.

La Jolla was 29-0 and featured a pressing defense and up-tempo offense that had run off  30 straight victories dating to the 1962-63 season.  Helix was taller and, at 25-3, a formidable opponent but slight underdog.

With 6-6 Al Skalecky, 6-3 Jim Sunderman, and 6-1 Ron Slocum in the front line (Slocum was injured early in the game and replaced by Larry Bailey), the Highlanders were taller but  not as quick as the Vikings’ 6-3 Rick Eveleth, 6-1 Bill Canning, and 5-10 Charlie Buchanan.

Speidel guided Helix to San Diego Section championships in 1964 and 1966 (above).

Speidel guided Helix to San Diego Section championships in 1964 and 1966 (above).

Helix turned the game into a 76-56 rout with a 15-2 run in the second quarter before about 3,300 persons at Cal Western University’s Golden Gym.

“Our strategy was to run on their press and get the ball downcourt,” said Speidel.  “We got off a lot of shots without setting up.

“I knew we had a size advantage,”  Speidel added, not expecting the Highlanders’ 46-22 advantage in rebounds.

“I’ve seen Helix three or four times and they never played that well,” said the stunned La Jolla coach, Bill Reeves.

Two seasons later, led by John Skalecky, John Ugrin, and Rick Barnes, Speidel’s Helix squad defeated Chula Vista 51-41.

“Bob and I co-owned a mountain cabin near Julian in the ‘seventies and ‘eighties,” said my Evening Tribune colleague and Helix graduate Roger Conlee.

“We spent some good times there around a blazing fire talking–what else?–basketball,” said Conlee.  “He loved the game and was a great student of the game.”


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9 Responses to 2013: Bob Speidel, Championship Helix coach

  1. bob spence says:

    One of the great games in the Helix run of 1963-64 was the Kiwanis Christmas
    tournament final against St. Augustine–Helix won in overtime, 59-56.Awesome game.

    • Rick says:

      Al Skalecky and Jim Sunderman also led Helix to the CIF title, beating La Jolla, 76-56, and dishing the Vikings their first loss after 29 wins in a row. A game I remember more in December of that season was a 77-63 Saints win over Hoover. I think you lit up the Cardinals.

  2. Bob Grundstrom says:

    Coach Speidel was one of the few “real” teachers that I had the luck of being mentored by. I’ve spoken to a few of my old teammates and they unanimously agree that we learned the value of hard work, team building, and most importantly…….WINNING. Unfortunately not taught anymore! Our whole starting lineup made the All Grossmont League team in 1964. In addition, I still keep in touch with many ’64 San Diego prep players and they all praise Speidel as a great coach. Al Skalecky and I played in Europe for a while after SDSU.

    • Rick says:

      Bob, I just got home from the Aztecs-UNLV game. Tough loss. Helix usually had good material but Speidel took them to a place they had not been. I think some people think Helix hoops began when the Waltons, Bruce and Bill, came on the scene. That La Jolla team was really very good but Helix utilized its size and tough defense to run away with the championship in 1964. Al Skalecky was an outstanding player. I covered the Aztecs when Skalecky was on the team that went to Evansville, Indiana, for the College Division tournament. They lost in 3 overtimes to Illinois State. A member of the Illinois State team that night was Steve Fisher. “I didn’t get off the bench,” Fisher once told me. Thanks for commenting.

  3. malcolm pusey says:

    Please give me a rundown on the history of SDCIF Basketball title sites. How long did Golden Gym hosted the CIF Championships?
    I would appreciate your answers.

    • Rick says:

      The first CIF Championship game (I’m noting the large schools) was in 1961 at Point Loma High. Hoover beat Point Loma, 66-54. The championship game (and semifinals) was played at Golden Gym on the Cal Western U. campus from 1962-67. The CIF moved its championship game to Peterson Gym, which was new, at San Diego State in 1968. From 1969 onward the championship was at the Sports Arena. I haven’t researched beyond that, although I understand that the championship was at UC-San Diego in 1998. Cox Arena, now Viejas, hosted the games at least through 2003. Games also have been held at the University of San Diego. It’s my understanding that finalization of a site for this year’s championships may not be in place. USD may not be available. I hope this helps. Let me know if you need more.

  4. Rick says:

    Rich: John Skalecky followed brother Al to San Diego State but was a reserve during his time there. Thanks for writing.

  5. Richard Rachel says:

    I remember those days fondly, and was a fan of Skelecky’s when he played for Ziegenfuss’ Aztecs in Petersen Gym. Must have been 1965-66 season? I assume John Skelecky’s was Al’s younger brother. Where did he end up playing college ball?

    Thanks Rick…great stuff!

    • Rick says:

      Rich: The 1957 Grossmont-Montebello game was played in Aztec Bowl. Could the road trip you mentioned have been to North Torrance, which played the Foothillers the week before Montebello?

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