Former Paly coach Clem Wiser was a winner in every sense


Clem Wiser will be best remembered as a champion of education, a championship coach, a championship facilitator and a championship friend.

He was a winner in every aspect without losing perspective.

"Coach Wiser is simply the gold standard for teaching basketball players on and off the court,” said Oregon's U.S. senator Ron Wyden, who played for Wiser in the 60s, in an interview with The Campanile in October of 2014.

Wiser, who coached basketball for 28 years and served as athletic director for another decade at Palo Alto High, passed away Friday at the age of 93, leaving a legacy of positive motivation that touched the lives of thousands.

His wife, Olga, of 65 years passed in 2010. He remained in Palo Alto.

Wiser attended the celebration of the gym's closure last year. He was interviewed by Paly grad and current CSNBA personality Dave Feldman as part of the proceedings.

From Wyden to Jim Harbaugh, his players carried life lessons to continued success far beyond high school.

"My high school coach, Clem Wiser, passed yesterday at 93," tweeted Kent Hinckley. "He was a very influential man in my life."

Wiser's teams won 401 games, more than any other Palo Alto basketball coach. He won nine league championships and was named California Coaches Association basketball Coach of Year in 1983. His friend John Barrette won it in 1993.

Video: Paly gym memories (courtesy of Bruce Gee)

From the December, 2013 Viking sports magazine:

"In 1967, varsity basketball coach Clem Wiser enjoyed one of his best seasons, finshing with a record of 27-2. That year the Vikings’ performance in the South Peninsula Athletic League championship game ranked them second in the entire state, and that game was one that Wiser and his team would never forget.

"Playing against the Sequoia Cherokees in the league championship, the score was tied 15 times and never exceeded a three point spread.

'It was nip and tuck the whole way,” coach Wiser said. “Mark Daley (‘68) shot two free throws with 20 seconds left to the win the game 70-68 and gave us the championship.'

"The 1967 championship game between Sequoia and Palo Alto was one of the most exciting games Wiser ever experienced. The fans were loud and the gym was packed.

“It was the largest crowd that ever saw a basketball game at Paly,” Wiser said. “Enough people came that [we had to lock the doors and about 100 people couldn’t get in. We even brought in temporary bleachers and people stood three to four deep all around the court.”

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13 people like this
Posted by Ed hart
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 7, 2017 at 8:39 am

Clem Wiser was a true coach who was a winner on and off the court. I have known him for 50 years and known him to be a great coach, friend and mentor. He always had his students respect and worked hard for their needs. He will be missed. EdHart

7 people like this
Posted by Mike Parr
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 7, 2017 at 9:47 am

So sorry to hear of Coach Wiser's passing. I was a member of his 1981 and 1982 Boys Varsity Basketball teams. Our 1982 team won the SCVAL Championship and lost in the CCS Final Four to Riordan at Stanford's Maples Pavilion. He was a wonderful coach and mentor to me - and hundreds of other young men in Palo Alto. May he rest in peace.

8 people like this
Posted by Dick Supan
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 7, 2017 at 11:27 am

As an educator and coach, a legend in Palo Alto. And the above game between Palo Alto and Sequoia, I was in the stands as an 8th grader. I have watched and played in thousands of games, still the most exciting game I ever saw.

I hope the City of Palo Alto, the Palo Alto Unified School District, and Palo Alto High School honor Coach Wiser and his wonderful legacy.

And oh by the way, I went to Gunn High School, and school rivalries aside, Coach Wiser was a great influence on all of us.

4 people like this
Posted by Sarah Wachtel-Custer
a resident of another community
on Feb 7, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Clem never lived in Morgan Hill. He lived in Palo Alto until his death.

5 people like this
Posted by Catherine Custer
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 7, 2017 at 1:42 pm

My grandparents lived in the same home, in Palo Alto, from the time it was built until their respective passings. Growing up, you couldn't walk down a street in Palo Alto and not encounter someone my grandfather had coached or taught. He was that kind of teacher, that kind of man. It was very important for my grandparents to pass at home where they had shared their entire lives together, never apart. Please check your facts.

2 people like this
Posted by Kent Eaton
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 7, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Coach Wiser was a good man! I had the honor of playing for him for three years, and although he was a competitor, he never said anything derogatory. He was alway encouraging. I also was given the chance to coach C and D basketball in the fall with him. It started a long career of coaching myself. I did not have the chance to speak to him in later years, but it would simply have been, "Thank you Coach".

As a memory, I remember sitting in the stands watching my older brother play (I was in Jr. High) and feeling like it was big time. From High School to a college scholarship to professional ball in Europe and many years of coaching, thank you Coach! Rest in peace.

1 person likes this
Posted by Pat Nakamura
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 8, 2017 at 10:28 am

I played C and D basketball for Coach Wiser. He took us seriously and taught us the fundamentals of the game. I remember him as a true southern gentleman(at least until a ref made a bad call). I also remember the excitement of that '67 game against Sequoia like it was yesterday.

I was in the pep band and whenever we passed Coach Wiser while the band was heading up to the bleachers, he would yell out "You guys need to play Wabash Cannonball." Someone finally ordered the music and we played it for him. He love it! And we loved him!

1 person likes this
Posted by Dan Johnson
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 9, 2017 at 1:01 pm

I played varsity ball at Paly for Coach Wiser in '61, '62, and '63. His coaching, my play, and seeing each other from time to time over the last 54 years created a bond and friendship that I cherish. I picture him in my mind with a kind smile, wearing a wool forest green coat, and fiddling with a roll of white athletic tape. His words were direct, mostly patient, and encouraging. His friendship enduring and assuring. Coach Wiser celebrated his family, friends, and former players. I visited with him a couple of weeks before he died at his home in Palo Alto. We talked and I suggested that a picture be taken. His son took the photo. As I crouched behind Coach, he reached out his hand for mine and lifted them above his head. He was thinking about me and our friendship. I felt honored to know this accomplished and admirable man.

1 person likes this
Posted by Jack Dickinson
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2017 at 4:59 pm

Not only a top b-ball coach, but an excellent on-the-road drivers training instructor! When this course (discontinued years ago) was offered as part of Paly's currriculum in 1964, Clem and I traveled all over Palo Alto in 1-2 months prior to my first drivers license test. Passed that sucker with flying colors!

R.I.P. Coach Wiser.

Jack D.- Class of '65

6 people like this
Posted by TOM CRANE
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 29, 2017 at 4:30 pm



2 people like this
Posted by Dan Silva
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Such a great guy... I coached basketball at San Carlos High School and I admired Clem from the first time I met him. I always felt that if you took five of the best coaches in the area, along with Clem, and each coach picked five bystanders out of crowd and instructed them for a single hour, that Clem's team would be superior in every match up. My condolences to all his family.

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