Auburn's Callero family steeped in basketball tradition

Auburn's Callero family, from left, Max, Josh, Trey and Tony.
— image credit: Shawn Skager/Reporter

The question "who is the best basketball player in Auburn's Callero family" raises a bit of controversy.

Pose that question to dad, Tony, 44 and his three sons Josh, 17, Max, 15 and Trey, 11 and all four quickly raise their hands to claim the title.

"I clearly have the best jump shot," Tony says. "We've had multiple shooting contests and they never come close. Round the World or three-point contests."

"You stopped doing that when I was seven because you knew I was going to catch up," Max retorts.

The Calleros are a family marinated in a basketball tradition that stretches back more than 50 years.

Family patriarch Vern Callero, Tony's dad, played for Seattle Prep. In 1951 he helped his team place sixth in the state tournament.

Thirteen of Tony's 16 brothers and sisters played basketball for Enumclaw High School, as did Tony. Most notable is his older brother, Joe Callero, who coached for several years at Seattle University and is now the head coach at Division I California Polytechnical University in San Luis Obispo (Cal-Poly). Younger brother Marc Callero is an assistant at Pacific Lutheran University.

For Tony, who coached Auburn High School for three seasons in the early 2000s and now runs the Trojan youth basketball programs, the coaching bug bit early and deep.

"I coached my first undefeated season when I was in sixth grade. It was my brother Marc's fourth grade team," Tony said. "I thought that was pretty cool. I always played with kids whose dads were coaches."

After his playing career as a guard at Enumclaw, Green River Community College and Central Washington University, from which he graduated in 1993, Tony began his teaching and coaching career.

"I found I had a lot more control of the game as a coach than I did as a back-up point guard," Tony said.

After stints in Kelso and Dayton, Tony jumped at the chance to move back to King County and coach at Auburn.

"Tim Cummings was the district AD, and a former coach here asked me to apply for the job," Tony said. "Out of respect for him, I decided to apply for the job and was hired."

Tony continued:

"This was before Auburn Mountainview opened, so Auburn was one of the largest high schools," he said. "They had a lot of success in the playoffs. They had always been really big. I would come down here, and it was like the University of Auburn for an Enumclaw kid. The district playoffs were always down here. I'd been in this gym when it was jam packed from the time I was four or five years old, coming down to the playoff games. The chance to be the head coach at that school was pretty exciting."

Tony coached the team from 1999-2002 before resigning to be an assistant with older brother Joe at Seattle University.

"He came and asked me to come coach at Seattle U as an assistant coach," Tony said. "I was leaving for practices on Saturday mornings with baby Josh and baby Max and a pregnant wife, and Joe gave me a chance to be part time."

After the birth of Trey – "we ran out of names so we started numbering them," Tony said – Tony took a year off from coaching before taking over the youth program for Auburn coach Ryan Hansen.

"It seemed natural for my kids, if they had an interest, for me to coach them," he said. "They picked it up instantly. As early as they could walk, they were dribbling."

Josh, now a point guard on the varsity team, said playing for Auburn was ingrained.

"For me, it was about seeing all those guys playing each year," Josh said. "From the time I was really young, I just wanted to be just like them. Seeing my dad coaching just got me closer to that."

As for playing for dad as they came up through the youth programs, Max – a freshman guard on the Trojan C-team – said it was natural, and at times fun.

"One time he read in a parenting magazine that your kids should call you coach, not dad, when you're coaching them," Max said. "But I still called him dad."

"During basketball he's coach, but at home he'll talk to me about basketball like he's my dad," Josh said.

As for who is the best all-around hoopster in the family, the answer is still up for grabs.

"I know when Trey and I are on a team against Max and Josh we have a hard time beating them," Tony said.

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