An Arlington sports legend was lost recently when former longtime Wakefield High School boys basketball coach Bob Veldran died at the age of 77.
Veldran coached the Warriors from 1971 to 2002. School sports historian Frank Haddock said Veldran’s Warriors’ teams won five district championships, one region title, reached the region-tournament semifinals four times, and made two appearances in the Group AAA state tournament.
Veldran had more than 300 victories as the team’s head coach. He also was Wakefield’s head baseball coach from 1975 to 1991.
Veldran moved to Hilton Head, S.C., after retiring from teaching at Wakefield. He began having multiple health issues in recent years.
Current Wakefield head coach Tony Bentley succeeded Veldran in that position. He continued to regularly recognize, include and update Veldran over the years about Wakefield basketball. In a ceremony of recognition at Wakefield a few years ago, Bentley had a jersey in Veldran’s name hung on the gymnasium wall at the school.
“I have nothing but respect for Bob Veldran,” Bentley said. “I grew up in Arlington and I always wanted to play high-school basketball on his team, but I went to Washington-Lee. He was the driving force behind me and our teams being successful at Wakefield.”
Current Yorktown High School head football coach Bruce Hanson was a longtime friend of Veldran. They met when the two began coaching different sports at Wakefield in their early 20s, and were hired as physical-education teachers at the same time at the school. For many years, the two often attended each other’s games, even when Hanson began coaching at Yorktown.
“Bob should be in the Arlington Sports Hall of Fame, and we need to work on that,” Hanson said. “We always continued to keep in touch over the years, and we talked about sports all the time. When Bob was coaching basketball, I’d say he was one of the top coaches in the region back then. He was very organized as a coach, and his players liked him and his teams won a lot.”
Veldran’s basketball teams were known for playing tough defense and his patterned and efficient Louisville” offense.
One of those players was Kenya Hunter, a standout guard on that 1990 Wakefield region-title team, a Division I college starting guard and a current assistant coach for the Indiana University men’s basketball team.
“My toughness as a player I learned from him,” Hunter said. “Coach V built a mentality for his players to have mental toughness. He cared about his players and supported us, and he always was an honest guy when it came to feedback. That 1990 season was a heck of a moment for him. He was a part of a lot of great moments.”
Veldran was a New Jersey native, where he was a standout athlete at Teaneck High School. In college, he was a basketball and baseball player at American University.
Allan Glasscock played basketball and baseball for Veldran at Wakefield.
“He could coach, simple as that,” Glasscock said. Over the years, many games were won [in basketball] because he simply outcoached other teams, not because we were the most talented team.”
Hunter said he and Veldran continued to keep in touch through his adulthood, with the coach attending some of his college games.
Don Tomb and Bruce Bernhardt were longtime assistant basketball coaches under Veldran.
“He left quite a legacy,” Tomb said. “Players liked him and that was evident by how many of his players remained in close contact with Bob after he moved to Hilton Head and how many would come back to visit when he was still coaching.”
Bernhardt lives in Colorado now, but continued to keep in touch with Veldran, as well as Tomb.
“In the 20-plus years we all coached together, the three of us were good friends, we worked with a lot of great kids, had a lot of really good times and a lot of exciting seasons,” he said. “I learned the nuances of basketball from Bob, because he knew so much about the game, and he always wore his emotions on his sleeve.”
Bernhardt told about how Veldran’s children Jake and Katie often would attend Saturday morning Wakefield practices.
“Those were special times,” Bernhardt said. “Bob put in a lot of time and effort for that school, coaching two sports for so long and teaching there.”
NOTE: Bentley and Wakefield assistant boys basketball coach Horace “Buck” Willis occasionally host a podcast that often includes topics about Wakefield basketball. A future podcast segment, which was previously recorded, will be a segment with Veldran discussing that 1990 region-championship team. “I think a lot of people will enjoy that,” Bentley said.