The Class of 2012: Kagawa, Longtime AHS Coach and Counselor, Graduates

  • December 30, 2011

By Maddie Johnson
For Albany Patch.com

Doug Kagawa, beloved Albany High School head counselor, is retiring in January, after 35 years of service to AHS. Math teacher Dean Becker said of Kagawa, “He’s been here a long time and he’s really liked, which are great things that rarely happen together.”

Brian Douglas Kagawa was born in Lodi, CA. He grew up in Berkeley, attending Washington Elementary and Garfield Junior High. He developed a love for basketball at a young age and began playing officially in leagues as a sixth-grader. Even though students were not typically allowed to join until the seventh grade, Kagawa was permitted in early because he was so talented and hardworking.

The referee for Kagawa’s Japanese league games was also the varsity coach at Berkeley High School. He finally convinced Kagawa to join the team in his junior year. Kagawa played on the varsity team for two years as a guard. In 1967 and 1968, Kagawa helped his team win the ACCAL championship and the regional Tournament of Champions. He played alongside future NBA players and was eventually inducted into the Berkeley High School Athletic Hall of Fame. Kagawa graduated from Berkeley High in 1968.

THE ROAD TO ALBANY

Kagawa attended Merritt Community College and Cal State East Bay where he received a degree in biology and kinesiology as well as his teaching credential. Kagawa then returned to BHS as a PE teacher. He worked with his former coach as the varsity boys basketball assistant coach from 1973 to 1976. Kawaga was also an assistant varsity football coach and the JV basketball head coach. Additionally, he coached football, swimming, and water polo at the BHS West Campus for ninth graders.

Even though Kagawa hadn’t played football or water polo, he was still an excellent coach. He found that coaching football was similar to coaching the defensive strategies in basketball.

He attended UC Berkeley and U.S. Olympic Team water polo practices and games to improve his coaching techniques. Kagawa was highly committed to his work and consistently went above and beyond what was expected of him in order to ensure that he could be the best coach for his players.

Current AHS Athletic Director Andrew Strawbridge said of Kagawa, “He is a person of high character who cares greatly for his students. You have to admire a coach with so much passion.”

After his two years as a PE teacher at BHS, Kagawa was one of 60 young teachers who were laid off in a series of district-wide cuts. He then worked nearly full-time as a substitute teacher and continued coaching. In 1976, Kagawa worked as a long-term substitute at Vallejo High School for a biology teacher on maternity leave. Kagawa was so well-liked that he was offered her position the following year.

Instead, he applied for a position at AHS. Kagawa began working at AHS in 1977 as a full-time PE teacher and boys football and basketball coach. Soon, he began teaching freshman Health and senior Family Life, as well as Leadership.

FROM COACHING TO COUNSELING

After an AHS counselor retired, rather than hiring a new counselor, the department decided to try something new and assign his students to five teachers. Kagawa spent one period a day counseling 40 students. He enjoyed counseling so much that the following year he went back to school at St. Mary’s College to get his master's degree in counseling.

After receiving his degree, he spent three periods counseling and two teaching Family Life each day. Kagawa became a full-time counselor in 1982 and the head counselor in 1997.

Fellow counselor Sally Benjamin said, “Kagawa’s accomplishments in the counseling office are second to none. He treats students with genuine compassion and respect–no matter if they are the highest achieving student trying to manage stress or the depressed student who is struggling to graduate.”

Kagawa coached the mens varsity basketball team for 30 years and was inducted into the AHS Athletic Hall of Fame for his service. Kagawa truly enjoyed his time coaching.

"We won some games and lost a lot," he said, "but we always competed from the tip-off to the end of the game."

Kagawa taught all of his players that the most important thing they could do both in basketball and in life was to never give up.

Wrestling Coach Kermit Bankson reminisced about their times together: “It was great when the wrestling and basketball teams had their banquets together. New Orleans football fans used to wear paper bags over their heads because the team was so bad, so when the basketball team was struggling to win games, the wrestlers, the team’s biggest fans, put paper bags with eye and mouth holes over their heads to watch the games. It was funnier than hell.”

A THRIVING HOME LIFE

In 1975, Kagawa reconnected with Debbi, his former high school girlfriend. They were married the following year. The Kagawas recently celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary.

In 1979 and 1981, their children Lindsay and Scott, respectively, were born. Both attended AHS. Like Doug, Lindsay was an outstanding athlete in high school. She was awarded a scholarship to attend Stanford University to play volleyball. Lindsay is now a sports agent, who primarily represents female basketball players.

Scott is musically talented. He received a scholarship to play the trumpet at Northwestern University. Scott now works in the social media industry, but continues to pursue his passion for the trumpet.

Doug and Debbi are extremely proud of their children. David DeHart, close friend and colleague of Kagawa for 29 years, said of him, “He raised a great family and I had the privilege of teaching both his kids.”

"HE REALLY CARES"

As a counselor, Kagawa is often admired for putting his students first. Senior Edward Gong said, “Kagawa is so kind, humorous, and generous with his time.”

Junior Stella Goldstein, said of Kagawa, “He really cares about all of his students and their futures. He’s a great counselor and a great person, and I’m really going to miss him.”

Many teachers and upperclassmen fondly remember Kagawa’s participation in the 2010 senior homecoming lip sync.

Senior Siobhan Bauer recalled, “Despite class jealousy, it was super exciting and hilarious to see Mr. Kagawa break down some sweet moves in the lip sync. In addition to learning that he is quite the dancer, we saw how much he was appreciated and respected by the entire student body.”

It is a testament to how much he is liked that he has been the only teacher or administrator ever to appear in the lip sync in its history at the school.

Though he is soon to be leaving the checkered halls of AHS, Kagawa will always be remembered here as a great teacher, a dedicated coach, and a wonderful counselor. Benjamin cannot imagine AHS without Kagawa.

She said, “He has been the face of Albany High School for more than three decades, and I would venture to say that he is the most widely revered staff member at our school. I urge all of us to put aside our selfish wishes for Kagawa never to leave–and instead wish him happiness and delight in his retirement.”

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