Coach Bubba takes the helm

New OCC football head coach Joel “Bubba” Gonzalez (center) discusses a call with a referee during a time out at Saturday’s game against Ventura College. It was Gonzalez’s first official game as head coach.

The Orange Coast College football team looks to bounce back from a disappointing 2-8 season last year under new head coach Joel “Bubba” Gonzalez.

Gonzalez was ultimately the best fit for the Pirates having already spent three years with the program as the defensive line coach. Head coach is the latest role he adds to his resume having been both an offensive and defensive coach at top high school Mater Dei.

The search for a head coach was a short one over the summer for OCC with the new season rapidly approaching. Gonzalez replaces former head coach Kevin Emerson who left the college at the end of last semester.

“Coach Bubba was the right person for this position for where we are,” Orange Coast College Athletic Director Jason Kehler said. “He’s dedicated to the student athletes and that’s something that I always look for in a coach. We love winning and we want to win, but we also want to make sure we are making a positive impact on our student athletes.”

After a disappointing season, a common expectation when a team hires a new coach would be for the coach to completely change the direction of the program.

Although that is ultimately the main goal, results aren’t expected due to the competitive Orange Empire Conference. At this level it’s important to make sure the student athletes can either move on to the next level of their sports career or continue their academic career and set them up for life after their sport, officials said.

Gonzalez himself is a product of the community college system having attended Saddleback College and then transferring on to the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

“I understand the struggles these kids have playing junior college football,” Gonzalez said. “There’s tons of pressure for the kids going the junior college route and being one of those players I can sympathize with the trials and tribulations because I went through them myself.”

Growing up as a football player, Gonzalez played on offense as a center, arguably one of the most important players on the offensive line. As a center, the job is to pass the football to the quarterback on every single play on offense.

The nickname “Bubba” originated from Gonzalez’s early days of playing Pop Warner football and the name stuck for good.

Officials in the program said Orange Coast College’s football program desperately needed a culture change and Gonzalez looks to do just that, emphasizing on boosting team morale and making sure everyone meshes together as one unit. One of the ways that has already been achieved is in late August, when the entire team participated in the Children’s Hospital of Orange County walk at Disneyland.

Even though football is a team sport, it is often hard to play as a team because there are so many players involved in the game.

“As long as we’re working hard and the guys are sticking together, that’s all we can look for,” Kehler said. “The attitude that (Gonzalez) brings every day is reflected onto our other coaches from other sports, our training staff, our eligibility, our players, everybody has just great interactions with him and its just a testament of how great of a person (Gonzalez) is.”

Thanks to Gonzalez, another important new addition to the Pirate coaching staff is two sports psychologists actively working with the student athletes on their mindset on and off the football field.

Though the season is still fresh and the Pirates have only played one official game, Gonzalez has achieved one of his goals already, boosting the team’s morale and unifying the team.

“There’s been a huge change in how we are as a team, and Bubba did that,” sophomore quarterback Pete Mitchell said. “We are completely different for the better.”

From a football perspective, Gonzalez’s ultimate goal is to build a competitive program from the ground up, develop a consistently good team and not just have a successful season every few seasons.

However, Gonzalez realizes football will eventually end for everyone and hopes to teach his players what its like to be a good person and a good student.

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