By Carlos Alvarez
Athletic Director Al Cone continues to lead East Los Angeles College’s athletic department and hopes to do so till the age of 69.
“I love my job. Look at me. I love the students and student-athletes here. I get to travel around the state attending all the athletic events, sports meetings and conferences,” Cone said, while wearing a t-shirt and gym shorts.
As athletic director at ELAC he plays a major role on the 15 athletic teams and their respective staff.
“Our department does a better job start to finish than any other college in the LACCD,” Cone said, when asked about the current state of the athletic department.
His involvement with sports began at a young in the San Fernando Valley where he was raised. “I was like any kid going to the park. I played baseball, football, and basketball. Baseball was my favorite,” Cone said.
At a young age his parents divorced, but he never lacked support from his parents.
“My parents got divorced when I was four. I was raised by my mom, dad, and step-dad, but I was very fortunate. My dad and stepdad actually became best of friends,” Cone said, responding to growing up with his parents being divorced.
After graduating from Grant High School, he attended Los Angeles Valley College where he began to focus more on his educational goals.
According to Cone he wasn’t a good student at Grant, but once at LAVC he took more of an interest in his studies.
Cone not only excelled in the classroom, but also in the baseball field. During his freshman year at LAVC he received All-Metro Conference Honors.
His passion for baseball was tested during his sophomore year at LAVC, when a freshman started in his place. Even after being demoted he was named the Co-Captain of the team.
“It was very difficult having a freshman start instead of me. He was better than me, but I was a cabezon. I actually learned more from watching,” Cone said, when describing his time on the bench.
After receiving his associate degree from LAVC he attended Cal State University, Northridge to pursue a BA in Kinesiology.
His dream to continue to play baseball came to an end when he declined an opportunity to play baseball at the University of California, Riverside instead choosing to attend CSUN.
“I could have gone to Riverside but I knew I wasn’t that good to continue to play,” Cone said, when asked of his decision.
After graduating from CSUN with a BA in Kinesiology his life took a sudden turn. His relationship with a longtime girlfriend ended and at the same time he felt it was time to leave Los Angeles. He applied for a teaching position at two schools in Northern California.
He was hired at Archbishop Riordan High School to teach drafting and coach baseball.
“I packed up and moved to the Bay Area. I had to get a life and moving forced me to develop as a person. I was hoping to grow up,” Cone said.
Without having any friends at first, Cone took two additional jobs besides teaching. One was at a sporting goods store and one was as a security guard at Peninsula Hospital in San Mateo.
Cone worked as a security guard, working the graveyard shift while coaching and serving as Assistant Athletic Director at Archbishop Riordan High School.
After attending San Francisco State University for a quarter to pursue his master’s degree in kinesiology, he returned to Los Angeles.
“I was offered the head coaching position at San Francisco State University, but I had made up my mind to return to Los Angeles,” Cone said.
His return to Los Angeles did not stop him from receiving his MA in Kinesiology. After graduating from Cal State University, Los Angeles with a MA in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Athletic Administration he turned back to baseball.
Cone coached baseball at Don Bosco Tech High School for four years before accepting to become the Head Coach for the Husky baseball team.
During his nine years as ELAC’s baseball coach he compiled a record of 210 -159. His team’s never had a record of under .500 and they advanced to the playoffs five straight seasons from 1991-1995.
His knowledge for the game of baseball and leadership was recognized when he was named Sothern California Conference Coach of the Year in 1993. “My years as coach were great, but that was more of a reflection of my players,” Cone said.
Cone’s coaching style was a reflection of his idols Billy Martin (Oakland Athletic’s 1970s baseball coach), Bobby Knight (Former Indiana University coach), and Pete Rose (Major Baseball League legend).
“The fire those three had whether playing or coaching was great. That’s me,” Cone said when, describing his idols.
Throughout his tenure as coach his impact was felt on and off the field. “He helped me out a lot. It was never about himself. He will bring out the in you,” former ELAC baseball standout Ramon Ruiz said, when talking about Cone.
Cone’s dedication and love for ELAC continued after he stepped down as baseball coach after the 1998 season.
“I couldn’t coach the players of today. When I coached it was ‘yes sir’ or ‘no sir’ nowadays you don’t hear that,” Cone said, on his decision to step down.
His involvement with ELAC and athletics became stronger when he was hired as Athletic Director in 2001.
“Al Cone is one of the best things that happen to ELAC. He has dedicated his life to ELAC. He has made ELAC the place to go instead of being someone’s second choice,” Ruiz said, when asked about Cone’s involvement at ELAC.
According to Cone the move from baseball coach to athletic director was a perfect situation.
“Becoming athletic director was an easy transition because I surrounded myself with a great staff. My right hand man Hector Guzman has been a great asset to the athletic department,” Cone said.
With the ability to play a major role in all athletic teams decisions at ELAC, Cone has been fortunate to hand select coaches and staff. “It was a great honor to hand select James Hines to replace me. He portrays a perfect coach. All the current coaches make ELAC sports a modeled institution,” Cone said.
The same way he is praised for making good decisions, he has had to answer to some questionable decisions he has made athletic director.
“I love my job. ELAC has been good to me, so I must do what I feel is best for ELAC. The biggest adjustment was dealing with adults. It was easier working with kids than adults,” Cone said, when asked about the pressure of being athletic director.
A major decision that he had made was not re-assigning head football coach Lynn Cain after he led the football team to its first conference title since 1974. “I was the deciding vote when Mr. Cain was hired and I was the deciding vote not to re-assign him. He was not re-assigned for a number of reasons.
With the responsibility and pressure of being athletic director, Cone still teaches physical education at ELAC. “I love teaching and the money is not bad,” Cone said.
His strong desire to teach goes beyond the classroom. He is an active member of the ELAC Violence Intervention Team, where he organizes domestic and sexual assault awareness trainings for all student athletes.
“Women and children are the greatest beings. We have to learn to respect and treat them as such,” Cone said.
With all his involvement at ELAC Cone still finds a way to give back to the community. Cone is the Director of Outreach for the organization Project Neo in the City of Monterey Park. The organization deals with students (2nd-6th grade) who are academically at risk providing them guidance.
The energy and constant involvement Cone displays is somewhat amazing because of his stature and appearance. “You see a short man and you think really, but then you see the fire inside of him. He has so much energy that you have to respect him,” Ruiz said.
According to Cone his life has been great because his humor has led the way.
“ELAC is home to me, but when I retire I’m getting a tattoo on my derier then I’m heading to Las Vegas. I love Las Vegas. It has everything,” Cone said with a grin on his face.