De Anza College announced Don Watkins as its new head baseball coach and adjunct instructor in August of 2019. Watkins brings experience from four-year university, community college and high school levels – as an assistant coach, head coach, teacher and campus administrator. His impressive list of accomplishments includes winning a CIF state championship title, earning MaxPreps and Cal-Hi Sports CIF Coach of the Year honors, and qualifying for the CCCAA State Final Four.
Watkins recently spent two years at Menlo College (2017-19), where he was an assistant coach with the NAIA Oaks program. In addition to serving as the team’s first-base coach, he coached outfielders and assisted with recruiting.
Prior to that, Watkins served two seasons (2015-17) as a top assistant at Ohlone College. During this span, the program posted a 62-12 record and earned a trip to the state championships. Under head coach Mike Curran, Watkins was the assistant recruiting coordinator, coached first base, and was in charge of the outfielders.
“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Don for close to ten years,” Curran said.
“I’ve witnessed a man who stresses hard work, accountability, service to others, and education. I consider it an honor and privilege to know him. I know the young men put under Don’s charge will undoubtedly become better men in life.”
Watkins started his coaching career in the Central Valley.
After working as a junior varsity and varsity assistant at Fresno’s Hoover High School (2003-09), he accepted the assistant varsity coaching position at nearby Roosevelt High School (2009-10). He was also a special education teacher at both campuses in the Fresno Unified School District.
Then, from 2010-15, Watkins put Division VI Minarets High School on the California baseball map. As a head baseball coach, Watkins helped build one of the most successful small-school programs in Valley history. He was originally hired to also coach varsity basketball – and later became the athletic director.
After his 2013 baseball team finished as CIF runners-up, he guided the Mustangs to a storybook 2014 campaign. The team went 29-5, winning league and section championships. Although Minarets was classified as Division VI, they won the Division V state title – beating larger programs along the way.
Watkins was voted State Coach of the Year, as 10 of his seniors went on to play college baseball.
Off the field, Watkins guided his teams to GPAs above 3.0 – and led fundraising campaigns to build a state-of-the-art baseball field complex. He finished his Minarets coaching career with a 58-36 record.
Over the years, many of his former players have enjoyed success at the NCAA and professional levels, including: Ryan Ruley (Loyola Marymount University), Thadius Phillips (University of Connecticut), AJ Curtis (Cal State Fullerton), Isaac Cruz (University of Utah), Ryan Walstad (Sacramento State), Brian Martinez (Cal State East Bay), and Dalton Vanhille (Cal State Northridge), and Joe Gillette (Arizona Diamondbacks).
Building champions is part of the Watkins family DNA. Don’s wife, Christina Nelson, built a volleyball powerhouse at Hoover High School – winning multiple league titles and a CIF section championship in 2012. Two of their three daughters, Meranda Watkins and Alyssa Nelson, were Hoover volleyball standouts – both were team captains voted North Yosemite League Most Valuable Player during their respective senior years.
Meranda became a two-time All-Central Valley Conference outside hitter and setter at Porterville College, while Alyssa went on to Cabrillo College – where she was a two-time All-NorCal Region and two-time All-State Tournament (state champion in 2015) selection as a libero.
After graduating from Clovis High School, in Clovis, CA – where he played three years of varsity basketball and two years of baseball – Watkins enlisted in the United States Army and served eight years and served in two wars (Panama, 1989 and Desert Storm, 1990-91).
He earned his bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from National University; his teaching credential for Educational Specialist and Mild/Moderate Disabilities; and a master’s degree in Physical Education with an emphasis in Sport Management from Azusa Pacific University.
Watkins currently resides in San Jose and also works at Ann Sobrato High School in Morgan Hill, where he has been a special education teacher since 2017.