Keeping it local: Maderos, Schlueter enjoy careers launched by Chico High School success
Submitted by Ed Booth on Mon, 08/02/2010 - 3:13pm.
Just a little more than six decades ago, George Maderos sat on the bench in City College of San Francisco’s gymnasium.
“How’s your ankle?” asked his coach, Al Schlueter.
“Which ankle?” Maderos responded with a grin.
Seconds later, Maderos entered the game against Richmond in the Northern California Tournament of Champions. The event, which pitted winners from leagues throughout the north state, was a predecessor to today’s California Interscholastic Federation NorCal boys basketball championship.
Chico won that tournament in March 1950, using comebacks to defeat foes from Fremont High School of Oakland (40-35) and Salinas (35-29) in addition to a 49-46 decision against Richmond in the opener. It remains the school’s greatest basketball achievement, made even more impressive because the Panthers stopped teams representing much larger urban leagues.
Only the 1999 Chico team, which reached the NorCal final against Grant, has come close to matching the feat.
Maderos (Class of 1951) was a crucial link to the team during his time at Chico, and by entering the game, his 18 points helped his team overcome a substantial deficit against Richmond. The Panthers were 21-7 in arrears after the first quarter and 29-28 at the break before making their dramatic surge.
Maderos went on to star at Chico State in football, basketball, boxing and track. His 2,466 career points from 1951 through 1955 are still the university’s standard – even more remarkable considering the three-point shot didn’t exist then. Coincidentally, the second-place Chico State scorer all-time is Scott Land, a fellow Chico High School alumnus (1999), with “just” 1,567 points and the luxury of the three-point opportunity.
Schlueter, who died in December 2008 shortly after his 91st birthday, guided the Panthers to that Tournament of Champions crown. He coached the varsity program – in those days, called the “A” team – from 1945 through 1953. Maderos has fond memories of him as the two maintained a friendship until Schlueter’s death.
“He was a great coach, and he always had the respect of his players,” Maderos recalled recently. “He had a system for the team, and he was a real stickler for getting it right. He let you know if you didn’t do it.
“We had some people who were able to follow his system, and that was the big reason our teams were so successful.”
Maderos mentioned teammates Gene Howard, a point guard; Ellis, the center; and George Langen as some of the main cogs for the club. Maderos was a forward.
“Al had us run a five-man zone defense, and on offense we had a lot of fast-breaking,” Maderos explained. “It was a much different game then.”
Maderos had injured his ankle in the penultimate game of the 1950 regular season against Oroville, and sat out the game against Lassen to close out the schedule. Langen started in his place.
Maderos, a starter as a junior, continued to sit until things began looking grim against Richmond.
As a senior, he helped Chico reach the Tournament of Champions again, though they weren’t successful that time.
Maderos had a bit of an embarrassing start to his athletic career. Having never played competitive basketball before, he made the “B” team as a freshman. He even scored a basket the first time he handled the ball, in a game at Red Bluff. Unfortunately, it was in Red Bluff’s basket.
Chico High School, however, was just a starting point for Maderos and his athletic successes. After a phenomenal football career at Chico State, he was a 21st-round draft pick (250th overall) in 1955 by the San Francisco 49ers – making him one of only a handful of players ever to reach the NFL from Chico State.
Maderos played left cornerback for the 49ers in 1955, ’56 and ’57 before retiring due to a knee injury he sustained in a 1956 game against the Rams at the Coliseum in Los Angeles. Maderos was pursuing future Hall of Fame quarterback Norm Van Brocklin and was about to tackle him when teammate and roommate Rex Berry fell against the back of Maderos’ legs, injuring his knee.
Maderos came back the following season, but the damage had been done, and he would never be the same on the field.
Earning a spot on the team was a feat of which Maderos is still proud, since merely being drafted was (and still is) no guarantee of a roster position.
It was 1955, and Maderos was 5-foot-10 and weighed just 175 pounds – a number that was perilously low by NFL standards. Maderos recalled that he “worked like hell” in the preseason, running in Bidwell Park and achieving optimum physical condition. However, he was losing weight and that didn’t please the 49ers management.
“They didn’t want it down,” Maderos said.
Still, Maderos used a bit of good fortune to make the team. In the final exhibition game, the 49ers hosted the Washington Redskins at Kezar Stadium, leading 7-6 with about 20 seconds remaining. The Redskins, though, had the ball on San Francisco’s 3 – setting up a 10-yard field goal, bearing in mind that in those days, the goal post sat at the goal line.
Washington’s misfortune was the placement of the ball, on the hash mark. That meant a sharp angle for kicking; Maderos took full advantage.
“They didn’t overlap the line, and I was practically straight-on,” Maderos said. “They kicked at an angle and I blocked it.”
The 49ers held on for victory, and Maderos so impressed his coaches that he cemented his spot on the team.
It was quite a long journey for the young man who, as a freshman at Chico High School, left disappointed when he sought a place on the school’s freshman football team in late summer 1947.
Maderos was 5-foot-8 and 105 pounds, and was trying out for football because his older brother Lincoln (Class of 1949) played football. Schlueter was the assistant coach and was dismayed when the younger Maderos arrived at the weigh-in session before practices began.
“We ran out of suits (uniforms),” Schlueter informed Maderos, who took the news at face value.
Maderos grew to 5-10 the following year and made coach Ralph Hensley’s team with no trouble. “I was skinny, but I was big enough,” he recalled.
Hensley had an interesting system, as he allowed each player to draw up a play of his own to help “personalize” the offense. So, the starting 11 had 11 plays to remember.
“We won our first five games, even though we didn’t know what the hell we were doing,” Maderos said with a chuckle.
Schlueter was born in Fresno Dec. 10, 1917, and moved with his parents to Oakland, where he graduated from Castlemont High School. He attended Merritt Business College, where legendary Chico State coach Art Acker saw him play basketball. He recruited Schlueter to play for the Wildcats.
Schlueter always said he was grateful for Art recruiting him and considered him fatherlike.
Following graduation from Chico State, Schlueter began his teaching and coaching career at Chico High School. After one year in the classroom, however, he joined the Army Air Corps— predecessor to the Air Force— and served as a flight instructor.
He returned to Chico following the war and resumed his teaching and coaching duties.
Schlueter attended the University of Southern California during his summers off and obtained his Master’s degree, and was appointed business manager for the Chico Unified School District in 1958. Following his experience in the Chico school system, Schlueter served as superintendent of Orland Union School District, El Dorado High School District and Placerville Union School District.
He was selected as superintendent and president of the newly formed Butte Community College District in 1968. The college was housed adjacent to Durham High School and featured portable classrooms. The college opened for classes in August 1968 and members of the Butte football team uncrated the furniture the day before classes began.
Schlueter, Maderos said, had an extremely strong work ethic and he demonstrated this after having worked in a cannery and a lumber mill, driving a Coca-Cola delivery truck, selling real estate, and working as a ranger at Lassen National Park.
Maderos picked up a coaching job of his own, though very much not in the way he would have expected or wanted.
Chico State head football coach Gus Manolis, successful and well-liked in the community, died from a heart attack Jan. 28, 1958, while on a search for a 12-year-old boy who had become lost in the Mendocino National Forest west of Willows. Manolis was just 34.
Maderos received an offer to take over the team, and did so, weighing the fact that his injured knee had considerably decreased his NFL prospects. In those days, coaches also had full loads of classes to teach, essentially making their work more than full-time jobs.
“I coached track under Willie Simmons” in the springtime, along with boxing, Maderos said. That was in addition to teaching, of course, and the responsibilities of recruiting for the football team.
Simmons joined Gene Maxey and Dick Marshall as football assistant coaches. It was a pleasurable but tough existence, with as many hours as the jobs required.
“Between teaching, coaching and recruiting, I think I earned about 50 cents an hour,” Maderos said, chuckling. “We had to officiate basketball at night during the winter for a few extra bucks.”
Maderos became quite a well-regarded basketball official. Even so, “I told Willie: ‘We should go into business bottling water and selling it.’ Willie said no then. I often joke with him now and remind him that if we had started that kind of business, we’d be millionaires today.”
There are seasons in our lives when people help us to become more than we are. For many of us it was a high school coach we had along the way, whose inspiration and encouragement lasted long after high school is over.
Join The Chico High Foundation Board, On Saturday, August 21, 2010, at the Elk's Club on Manzanita Avenue for the first ever Chico High School Sports Reunion.
Social hour begins at 5:30 p.m. followed by a BBQ dinner at 7:00 p.m. Varsity Coaches from the last 60 years will be there as well as the former athletes from those golden years.