‘Godfather of Basketball’ in La Jara steps down

LA JARA — After 51 years of giving San Luis Valley youth an affordable education in the fundamentals in the game he loves, Fred Gutierrez has decided 2019 will be the last year for him in Fred’s Youth Basketball Program.

Gutierrez started playing basketball for the La Jara Wildcats from his freshman to his junior year before playing for Centauri his senior year.  Right out of high school Gutierrez would serve in the military for two years. The same year America was gearing to send the second manned mission to the moon, Apollo 8, Gutierrez had returned from Vietnam and would create the youth basketball program. Unlike NASA Gutierrez’s been doing it ever since. “I started with about 19 kids” says Gutierrez “some years we had one hundred, others fifty some and we got kids from all over the valley, even as far as Sargent.”

Gutierrez is known to wow his pupils with feats such as a blindfolded three-pointer as a demonstration of muscle memory and the importance of consistency in your shooting form. A method ground into him by a former high school coach for free throws. But his connection to basketball in the community goes deeper than giving the youth their start. Gutierrez has also taken part in coaching at the high school level as well as a local tournament that would culminate in students versus teachers.

With all the dedication and effort Gutierrez fed into his creation, the youth basketball program has become a local staple. Fred’s youth program has seen the likes of Sanford’s team that holds the CHSAA record of a 74 win streak, as well as former Tennesse Titan Anthony Dunn, and has collected in excess of 10 awards.

Doing what you love rings true for Gutierrez, because after 51 years Gutierrez still says “I enjoyed every year…I’d look forward to every practice even before the season started.” Despite the focus on basketball Gutierrez never discounted the importance of a furthering one’s education, “Sports could end at any time but education is forever.”

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