Week 7 Hog Blog: Coach (Kentera’s) Corner
The year was 1998. I was driving home after one of the first season episodes of the Prep Pigskin Report. I was listening to this booming voice on the radio, doing an AM version of our high football show. “Those guys at the PPR are trying to do it right, good for them,” observed Coach John Kentera. It was the first public acknowledgement of our little venture and it meant a great deal. Considering I had just hit town, I thought it was a pretty generous tip of the hat. Like any fledgling operation, we were enduring some growing pains. A compliment coming from this “prep insider” put some much needed wind in our sails.
It wasn’t until many years later when I met John Kentera face-to-face. I remember my hand getting lost in his catcher’s mitt size grip. It was like a sit-down with Yogi Bear from the Sunday morning cartoons. Kentera was outgoing, inquisitive, and downright friendly. John peppered me with questions and genuinely seemed interested in my answers. That’s rare. And despite the fact that he literally is talking down to you (Kentera stands at least 6’5’’) he never makes you feel that way. In our business, John Kentera stands out. A hard working gentleman, who has near encyclopedia knowledge of the San Diego sports scene.
Over the years I’ve gotten to know “Coach” better. He’s a frequent guest on our KUSI sportscasts and I recently appeared on his 97.3 The Fan radio show. In between commercial breaks I asked John to answer a few questions for this Hog Blog. If he was annoyed he didn’t show it!
Rudy: When did you start your high school football show?
Kentera: We started the High School Scoreboard show on Xtra sports 690 in September of 1990. In 1991 we moved it to Friday nights 11:00pm to 1:00am. I was on 690 until December of 2002. Then moved it to The Mighty 1090 in September of 2003, and stayed until October of 2015.
Rudy: What year do you consider your “football coverage” heyday?
Kentera: The “heyday” has yet to come. It’s great that stations like KUSI take it seriously and does an unbelievable job of bringing out the stories of all the great talent in San Diego. I hope I have played a little part in it over the last 28 year. People love High School sports.
Rudy: I think it’s a pretty big part. How has the new technology changed things on the radio side? What’s easier? What’s harder?
Kentera: The move to digital is a big part of radio now. The ever expanding social media front is the biggest difference. It has made the job of covering high school sports so much easier. It’s easier to get scores and information on players. I don’t have to call newspapers and local convenience stores in the area like I did in the early 90’s.
Rudy: Who was the better prep football player; Junior (Seau) or Marcus Allen?
Kentera: Marcus Allen and Junior Seau where men playing with boys in High School and I saw them both play. I saw Junior from freshman year on and Marcus as a senior at Lincoln. I would have to say Marcus because of his versatility. He played quarterback, defensive back and return man. I would have loved to have coached either one of them. Junior was known in high school as an offensive player more than a defensive player as he also played quarterback before moving to wide receiver.
Rudy: High school football participation rates are declining. Can the trend be reversed or is the sport in serious trouble?
Kentera: Yes participation is down the last couple of season and it would be a mistake to ignore it. But it’s still the most participated sport in high school and by a wide margin. The big schools are not feeling the decline nearly as much as the smaller schools. It’s going to be something programs have to deal with and coaches will need to adjust. Coaches will need to go down and recruit the junior high kids and sell them on their program. You’ll have to recruit on your own campus as well.
Rudy: What is your proudest radio moment?
Kentera: Hard to say because I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of big name high school athletes on the show over the years. I guess one of the proudest moments was early on is when I was anchoring the coverage for 690 and ran the Charles O’Bannon press conference up in Los Angeles when he committed to UCLA. It was national news and several radio stations picked up our feed. Over the years I’ve had radio guests like John Wooden, Herschel Walker, Dan Gable, Frank Robinson, Magic Johnson, Elgin Baylor and the list goes on and on. How do I pick one moment from that bunch? I have been very blessed.
Rudy: What moment would you like to sweep under the rug forever?
Kentera: Early on I received a call from a brother of a quarterback at Mira Mesa and he was not happy how I spoke of his brother and we got into a verbal debate on the air. It got quite heated. To this day I feel I portrayed him correctly though at the time it upset me.
Rudy: Finally, what’s your advice for aspiring radio sportscasters?
Kentera: Do your homework, Build a network of people you can trust, and remember, preparation is the key. Get as much experience as you can. Don’t wait for people to come to you make your opportunities.
Rudy: Thanks Coach, can we talk about me now?
You can hear Coach Kentera on 97.3 The Fan and see him frequently on KUSI-TV.