Gene Snyder

Gene Snyder, Hall of Fame Inductee

Coaches are used to challenges. When Gene Snyder was asked to coach Santa Barbara High’s boys tennis team back in 1957, he knew he was in for a real challenge.

“I didn’t know anything about tennis,” recalled Snyder, one of six new inductees into the Santa Barbara Hall of Fame tonight. “Without my players knowing it, I snuck down and took lessons from Mike Koury, who was the city’s tennis pro back then.”

Today, Snyder says tennis is one of his favorite sports as a player. What about his tennis team at Santa Barbara High?

Under Snyder, the Dons won or were co-champions four of the five years he coached the team. The other year, they finished second.

Besides turning into a top high school tennis coach, Snyder was one of the most successful basketball coaches in the school’s history. During his eight seasons as head basketball coach back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he guided the Dons to the CIF playoffs three times, including the 1959-60 campaign when the team made it all the way to the CIF quarterfinals. His overall record as basketball coach was 104 wins and 77 defeats.

When Snyder, who retired recently as co-principal of the school, took over the basketball program back in 1956, the Dons had won only 9 of their previous ·60 games. After posting a 2-19 record in his first year back in 1956-57 season, the Dons turned things around and were co-league champions during the 1958-59 season. Led by such players as Bob Zapata and Gary Hart, the Dons won the Channel League title outright during the 1959-60 campaign.

Snyder retired as basketball coach after the 1963 season and served as the school’s co-principal for 16 years before retiring.

As for being inducted into the Santa Barbara Hall of Fame, Snyder said: “I think it is a tremendous honor … something I never expected.”