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Danny Woo

Episode 040

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The Power of Basketball Pulling Family Together

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About Danny Woo

Danny Woo is a proud son of a single mother who taught him the values of humility, integrity, and community. When his mother brought him to America at age 4, they faced housing and income insecurity, but with her hustle and support from extended family, they set roots in Monterey Park, California. Danny is the product of the local schools and is a proud Mark Keppel High School graduate.

For over 20 years, Danny has dedicated himself to the youth as a middle school science teacher in Los Angeles and West Covina and as a basketball coach at his alma mater. He is passionate about bringing out a youth’s full potential and is successful in doing so.

He learned such skills from a past coach in his own childhood when he was part of a Chinese Basketball group. Today, he is a proud and loving father and a husband who is getting back into the game of coaching basketball.

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Danny Woo Quotes

  • “It was confusing because it was like living in three different worlds.”
  • “Sticking up for Russell was the first experience dealing with racialized issues.”
  • “There are four values through my coaching that I try to instill in my kids. They are work ethic, humility, integrity, and loyalty.“
  • “This shattered my foundation. It made me wonder if everything I learned from him was tainted.”
  • Danny is the product of the local schools and is a proud Mark Keppel High School graduate.
  • For over 20 years, Danny has dedicated himself to the youth as a middle school science teacher in Los Angeles and West Covina and as a basketball coach at his alma mater.
  • He is passionate about bringing out a youth’s full potential and is successful in doing so. He learned such skills from a past coach in his own childhood when he was part of a Chinese Basketball group.
  • Today, he is a proud and loving father and a husband who is getting back into the game of coaching basketball.

WHAT IS YOUR CONNECTION TO THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY?

I never thought of the SGV as an entity, and it wasn’t until recently that I realized the San Gabriel Valley has an identity.

I can’t put my finger on it, but the people are different because of our experiences here. Every little community has a uniqueness and distinction. They have their own personalities.

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?

I was born on a little island called Labuan off the coast of Borneo. It’s actually a port.

When I go back to Labuan, I feel so at home. I’m not sure why. I think it might be a spiritual connection.

However, at the same time, home is wherever my people are. By my people, I’m not talking about ethnicity. There is a certain way that San Gabriel Valley people act. People seem to understand each other more.

The area in San Gabriel Valley, where I live, feels the most like home.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE GROWING UP IN MONTEREY PARK?

It was confusing because it was like living in three different worlds.

There was my home, which my grandmother dominated.

There was school, and then there was the rest of the world.

I felt like I had to adapt to each setting and be a different Danny for each one.

One example was when the Japanese army invaded Malaysia, and my grandfather was put in a prison camp. Because of this, my grandfather hated the Japanese.

Fast forward to when I am in second or third grade, and I bring Russell home. My grandparents saw Russell, and they were so upset.

In my mind, all I saw was Russell. They weren’t mad at Russell; they were mad at me for bringing home a Japanese boy, and that night, we got into a big argument.

Sticking up for Russell was my first experience dealing with racialized issues.

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THEIR HATRED FOR THE JAPANESE? DID YOU UNDERSTAND IT?

When I was a kid, I felt it was unfair to Russell, and I wanted to understand why my grandparents felt the way they did.

I did come to understand why my grandparents felt the way they did toward the Japanese. It was their way of surviving.

This experience made me realize how society functions.

WHAT’S IT LIKE GOING BACK TO COACH BASKETBALL AT YOUR ALMA MATER?

I have a love-hate relationship with Mark Keppel because I want it to be such a great place that I overanalyze it and pick it apart.

At the same time, I won’t go anywhere else.

I left coaching for a few years, and I was asked to join multiple staff, and I just couldn’t. I’ve always been loyal to Mark Keppel.

HAS HIGH SCHOOL CHANGED FROM WHEN YOU WERE A STUDENT?

I don’t think kids are any different today. What has changed is the environment.

WHERE DID YOUR LOVE FOR THE GAME OF BASKETBALL COME FROM?

Going back to the theme of having to be three different people. There was such a cultural divide between my grandparents and me.

They didn’t take on any of the American culture or ways, but the one thing they did was cheer on the Lakers.

They were diehard fans. The Lakers were the one thing that kept our family together. It unified us.

Playing basketball was also an escape for me. My parents and grandparents wanted us to be good athletes and students, so basketball gave me a bit of an out.

YOU PLAYED WITH THE CHINESE BASKETBALL ORGANIZATION. HOW DID YOU GET CONNECTED WITH THEM?

There was one guy that was recruiting kids out of Chinatown. It was the start of AAU basketball.

Our coach saw a need for Chinese immigrant kids to get noticed, and he started this team to showcase these immigrant kids.

Later, we would find out there were more sinister intentions for it.

DO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT THAT?

Yeah, I do.

The coach was like a dad to me. I was raised by a single mom, so I didn’t have a strong male figure in my life. This coach filled that void for me in high school.

He made us feel like we were a part of something, but he was also really controlling. For example, he said we would have to ask him for permission to have a girlfriend, and as it turns out, he was grooming us.

It would come out that he allegedly had molested former players.

WHAT DID THIS DO TO YOUR TRUST?

This shattered my foundation.

It made me wonder if everything I learned from him was tainted. It made me want to leave coaching, and I even thought about leaving teaching.

WHAT LEVEL DO YOU COACH NOW?

At Keppel, we coach everyone as a single unit. We don’t break it up by grade, varsity, or junior varsity.

There are four values through my coaching that I try to instill in my kids.

They are work ethic, humility, integrity, and loyalty.

If you have those four things, you have what we look for in basketball players and in human beings who leave our program.

WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING A HUSBAND, FATHER, AND TEACHER?

I feel like the luckiest person alive with the birth of my daughter. I never envisioned being a part of a nuclear family.

I always pictured myself being a single dad, but when we had our daughter, it changed everything about me.

It’s made me a better teacher and coach.

 

SGV III

  1. Ming Wa is a restaurant that doesn’t exist anymore. They had the best food. It was a mom-and-pop restaurant, and when it closed, we had to find a new one. Now we are going to the Mandarin Deli.
  2. Mark Keppel Area. There are so many spots in this area that have so many hidden gems and memories.
  3. Russell’s House. That was a gateway for me to what it was like to be an American and what it is like to live in this country.

 

WHAT IS ON YOUR HORIZON FOR THE NEXT FEW YEARS?

I want to be the best dad and husband I can be. It’s a monumental task, and I am excited about it. I want to continue coaching and see if I can improve my community through basketball and coaching.