Westmont Magazine Coach for Life
With a lifetime record of 600-68 losses, two California state championships, and at least 25 former athletes playing college ball, Joe Vaughn ’68 has certainly succeeded as Buena High School’s girl’s basketball coach. Yet he measures success by the relationships he has gained, the lessons he has taught, and the lives he has touched. The wins and notoriety are simply the byproduct of a philosophy that has served him well for more than 25 years.
Joe was recruited to play basketball at Westmont at a time when the college was “just evolving into a legitimate program.” As a 5’8” guard, he didn’t see too much playing time. But sitting on the bench as a player actually helped him become better on the bench as a coach.
For Joe, the most fulfilling part of coaching is getting to work with young people and watching them develop into adults. He loves teaching kids not only about basketball, but about life, and establishing long-term relationships. He considers both far more important than any game. He tries to leave an impact “that will last far longer than any of their memories about basketball.”
He considers former players as an extended family, and has them coaching at Buena on all levels. He is most proud of how his players grow to be productive people in society.
In an age of a me-first, win-at-all-costs mentality, Joe has maintained a grip on what matters in high school athletics. “I believe athletics are so important. They do a lot in terms of character development, teaching kids to handle pressure, and how to be on a team,” he explains. As he has implemented these beliefs, Buena has consistently ranked in the top of their division, and has produced college players at such schools as University of Arizona, University of Nebraska and UC Berkeley.
One of Joe’s most well-known former players didn’t achieve his success on the basketball floor, but on the silver screen. For 10 years, Joe coached the boy’s team at Buena, and one year a scrawny kid by the name of Kevin Costner came out for basketball. He didn’t excel on the hardwood, but his small stature created a bond between coach and player. Joe reached out to Costner, valuing him as a person first, regardless of basketball ability. That relationship has lasted through all of Costner’s Hollywood success, a testament to Joe’s philosophy.
Joe feels fortunate to do what he really wants to do. “I like coming to work,” he says. He has three daughters, the oldest of whom also attended Westmont (Kara Vaughn Grabendike ’93), and he lives in Ventura with his wife, Kathy. When not on the court, which he admits is a rarity, he enjoys jogging, biking and yelling at the weeds in his garden instead of referees. During the busy summer months he runs a basketball camp for younger girls in Ventura and coaches his team in summer leagues and tournaments. This year promises to be another successful one for Buena, as they return five starters from last year’s league championship and CIF quarter-finalist team, and two of the most highly recruited players on the West Coast.