DANVILLE -- Matt Clawson did not know his pregame talk to the San Ramon Valley High boys basketball team last week would precede the final game of John Raynor's storied coaching career.
But that's how it played out.
The Wolves lost 57-48 to McClymonds on March 15 in the CIF Division I Northern regional quarterfinals, and Raynor told his team two days later that he was stepping down after almost 30 years of heading the program.
"It's hard to believe. He's been there so long," Clawson said, trying to let Raynor's decision sink in.
Raynor started coaching at San Ramon Valley in 1986. Clawson competed on Raynor's and San Ramon Valley's first North Coast Section championship team in 1988-89, before he was a starter at Cal Poly.
Thus, the Wolves' circle of success seemed complete when Clawson addressed the squad 25 years later as a Danville resident and father of five.
"I wanted the kids to have a face of tradition," Raynor said. "So often, we talk about tradition: What does that mean to a young person? Obviously, they see the banners and those types of things, but it's who these young people become that's important. Matt was gracious enough to speak to our team about competing."
All told, Raynor guided the Wolves to nine East Bay Athletic League, five North Coast Section and Northern California championships in 1991 and 1992.
"It's a dream job," said Raynor, who will remain the school's athletic director. "I just think I've been blessed to have so many great kids and parents and administrators. ... I just think it's time to leave the game that I love."
Raynor thought his final team, which finished the season 24-6, embodied all that the program stands for.
"I couldn't have been prouder of a team," he said. "They just had fantastic team chemistry, and it was just an outright joy to be with them every day, in the practices and games.
"I'm going to miss them dearly, but I'm so glad that I was able to culminate my coaching career of close to 40 years with a team that just epitomized team chemistry and a selfless approach to the game."
Clawson agreed that basketball was only a small part of the equation in the hard-working Raynor's program.
"You don't run into too many people like him anywhere in life -- a guy who cares that much and works that hard at making you better," Clawson said. "People that did run across him, they're lucky, because he works so hard at it and he was so good at it."
For one selfish reason, Clawson hoped Raynor would keep on going.
"My son's coming up. He's an eighth-grader now. I envisioned him getting a chance to play for Coach," Clawson said. "There's a lot of future basketball players who are going to miss out on that opportunity. It's gonna be a hard act to follow. Coach Raynor brought it for a long time. I was honored to speak to those kids."
Mark Madsen, who was a sophomore on the Wolves' brilliant 1992 squad, went on to star at Stanford and earn two NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. Last year, Raynor named a junior varsity tournament the Mark Madsen Invitational.
About when Madsen was inducted into the Tri-Valley Sports Hall of Fame in 2010, he gave Raynor high praise.
"Coach Raynor's the best," Madsen told the Contra Costa Times. "He's not only a great coach -- I truly believe Coach Raynor is one of the best coaches in the world -- but he's also a truly world-class human being."
Former Santa Clara University players Randy Winn, who also played as an outfielder for the San Francisco Giants, and Kevin Dunne competed on the Wolves' NorCal championship teams.
All told, Raynor has coached for about 40 years, including 33 at the varsity level. He started out as an assistant at Riordan in San Francisco in 1973. He next coached at his alma mater, Lincoln High-San Francisco, Menlo College, Boise State, Mitty-San Jose, San Jose State, Boulder High in Colorado, Lick-Wilmerding-San Francisco, and finally, beginning at San Ramon Valley in 1986.
What a run it's been.
"I'll tell ya, he made you work hard," Clawson said. "He was a great educator, a great coach. I feel like I'm blessed to have played for him.