By John Leykam
It’s not surprising that former Gaels Eric Bamberger ’92 and Lindsay Lopez Wisely ’04 remain residents of Contra Costa County, since they were raised there and excelled as student-athletes at Saint Mary’s. Given the influence of the Christian Brothers, it’s also understandable that the two became educators.
It is unusual, however, that they’re teachers and head varsity basketball coaches at the same high school — Deer Valley in Antioch.
Bamberger, a multiple sports star at Ygnacio Valley High in Concord, had numerous opportunities in basketball and football. A 6-foot-9 receiver, he was talented enough to be a football starter for Cal.
However, he chose Saint Mary’s basketball, playing for four Gael head coaches (Lynn Nance, Paul Landreaux, Dave Fehte and Ernie Kent). Bamberger was a reserve center-forward on the Nance-coached team that lost to Clemson in the NCAA Basketball Tournament first-round game in 1989.
After graduation, Bamberger competed in the Continental Basketball Association, a farm circuit for the NBA, then in France, Australia and South Africa. In 1995, he returned home to help take care of his dying mother, Charlene.
Tragedy touched Eric and his wife, Kate, a few years ago when an infant son, Jack, passed away. “It was the toughest thing I ever had to deal with, but we got through it thanks to the support from family and friends and our faith,” he says. The couple, who lives in Concord, has two other children, Ali and Mason.
Bamberger teaches computer science at Deer Valley, along with coaching the boys varsity basketball team. At the end of last season, he announced he was leaving full-time coaching — at least for now — to concentrate on teaching and family.
Lopez Wisely also played in 2001 in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, when the women’s team beat Texas but lost to mighty Tennessee.
Bamberger’s boys varsity basketball team at Deer Valley and Lopez Wisely’s girls have both attained considerable success over the last few years, including league championships and postseason tourney appearances.
At SMC, Lopez Wisely not only achieved basketball success but also met her husband, Nick Wisely ’03, a starting lineman on the Gael football team. Wisely is a physical education teacher and assistant football coach at Concord High School and helps his wife’s program at Deer Valley by coaching freshman girls basketball. They live in Oakley.
Bamberger and Lopez Wisely enjoy helping young persons mature and realize their life’s dreams. They credit Saint Mary’s with contributing to their personal and career advancement. “The values the College instilled in me — like community service, loyalty and team play — I try to pass along to my kids,” she says.
Tim Rhyan, Deer Valley’s athletic director, speaks highly of Bamberger and Lopez Wisely. “We are truly blessed to have the two of them. They are two of the finest young coaches and people in the state of California. They are much more than instructors of basketball. They are first and foremost teachers who mold in their kids lifelong values.”
Ed. Note: Sadly, Mr. Leykam passed away in July. His obituary is here.