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Mission High coach Tim Halloran ’75 helps his teams succeed on the court, in college & in life

Tim Halloran and the Mission High Lady Bears at Kezar Pavilion.

By Tom Stack ’75

The Mission High School Lady Bears strode into the frigid gym at Acalanes High School in Lafayette at precisely 5:55 p.m. on Dec. 21. Braving Bay Area holiday traffic and arriving some two and one-half hours after departing their Mission campus could have made the shortest day of the year one of the longest for Coach Tim Halloran ’75 and his squad.

You’d have never known that by watching him stride into the gym. Sporting a tailored tan suit, ball bag over his shoulder, and with the long lean look of a former hooper and a current Ocean Beach surfer, he exuded calm and cool. He and his team were some 30 minutes late for tip off, an hour in total, yet Coach Tim simply distributed the balls and got the girls into a layup line to get loose, taking others aside to stretch. 

So this is how my old buddy and classmate rolls, I surmised. We should all take a page from the book of a guy who is unfazed by traffic and tardiness. My image of him was shattered 1:41 into the first quarter, when from the bench I heard the bellowing of “PASS THE BALL!!” He then coached patiently as Acalanes went on a run, keeping his seat on the sidelines, chattering encouragement, constantly coaching. At one point, he called a time out and drew up a play for the eighth and last player on the bench so that she could get a great shot on the next possession.

At the half, Tim took his two post players to the court and showed them footwork down low, how to get their shot, head fakes, ball fakes, drop steps. He also instructed his wing players how to attack the basket, fake right, go left, get your shot. All in his tailored tan suit.

The Lady Bears started out cold, literally and figuratively. Despite the chilly bus, a long drive and the aforementioned frigid gym, they warmed up fast in the second half, going on runs led by strong point guard play and the efforts of their best player, a freshman named Lovely. She is a long, lean left hander, who can soar to the hoop or pull up for a jumper, ironically two of her coach’s best glory days attributes. Lovely is a future star. Tim says that “she is the best player in my eight years at Mission.”

* * *

Tim grew up with two older sisters and his mom in the Outer Mission on Crocker Avenue and attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The trip to SI and back took three transfers each way, well over an hour. “Peninsula kids like you often got home before the kids in the Mission or Noe Valley,” said Tim over lunch at Murphy’s on Kearney Street, across from the law firm of Murphy, Pearson, Bradley and Feeney, where he serves as managing partner. No, the law firm does not own the bar, “though we may have worked up a little equity by now.” He carries a full caseload while overseeing 51 attorneys in four offices. It is a huge responsibility, time-consuming, stressful and, of course, litigious, but Tim seemingly balances it all while finding the flexibility to be a full-time high school girls varsity basketball coach. 

“There are a few judges who know I coach, and they tend not to schedule any of my trials during the season,” notes Tim with a wry smile. Tim’s wife, Joyce, a ’75 graduate of Mercy San Francisco, whom Tim met during an SI theatre production they both took part in their senior year, has been tremendously supportive of Tim’s coaching. “Joyce is my sounding board for everything, my best friend and the love of my life. 

* * * 

Former SI teacher, coach and bus driver in a pinch, the late Steve Phelps exerted a tremendous influence on the young Tim Halloran. “I first learned of Steve Phelps during CYO basketball. He coached a really good team at Sacred Heart Grammar School with my future SI ’75 classmates Juan Mitchell and Raymond ‘Buddy’ Lee. Alton Byrd (Riordan ’75) was also on that team. Man, they were good. Steve Phelps had them well coached and they were unbeatable.”

Mr. Phelps’s sociology class helped inform Tim’s belief system. “Steve Phelps taught me the impact that person-to-person social change can have on a society. He preached to us the goal to practice one thousand acts of kindness during our lives. That concept never left me.”

Tim had the opportunity to sharpen those social philosophies at Cal, where he graduated in 1979. “During my freshman year, I lived at the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity at Cal with George Barry and Steve Ghiselli, both a year ahead of me at SI, but moved home and commuted the next three years. My mom couldn’t afford the room and board, so I worked all kinds of crazy jobs to help pay my way through college.”

One of those jobs was at a financial start-up called Charles Schwab in the mid 1970s. “I picked up the trades from the day before at the Pacific Stock Exchange and hustled them back to Mr. Schwab. There were no more than 15 employees there then. I interacted with him every day, first thing in the morning. I was a sophomore at Cal.” 

* * * 

Tim sent his son, John, to SI, where he graduated in 2008. His daughter, Rebecca, went to Convent, where she played basketball. While sitting in the stands one night in 2009 watching her team play, Tim overheard some parents talking. “The conversation turned to schools where girls’ basketball programs weren’t succeeding. When Mission was mentioned, the parents spoke dismissively of the program, saying that the girls were apathetic and would never sustain a program. It was very disparaging towards the school and the girls. I just stayed quiet and stewed.”

So what did this busy litigator, manager, father, husband, man-of-no-time do? He researched and called then Mission AD Scott Kennedy, telling him, “I have a vision. I will build a program that graduates the girls and sends them to college. We will grow, compete and win.” 

He did just that. “The last three years, we’ve been to the league playoffs, and this year we are leading our division,” said Tim, outwardly proud of his team, who learn from him the values of honesty, integrity, accountability and structure. 

“I’m just passing on what we were taught at SI to the girls in their language. It can’t be overtly spiritual, as it is the public-school system, but the principles are the same, and the results speak for themselves.”

Indeed they do. Every girl that has played for Coach Halloran at Mission has graduated and gone on to college. These student athletes come from the Tenderloin, Potrero Hill, the Bayview and deep in the Mission District. They have fulfilled Coach Tim’s vision, right off the jump.

“I de-emphasize to the girls that basketball is the way out of their challenging existence. I do emphasize that intelligence is. The girls are forbidden from using the word ‘can’t.’ Liners are their penance if they do.” Coach Halloran also raised the bar for the girls; he requires his players to maintain no less than a 3.0 GPA.

Jerome Williams ’75, a former CYO nemesis from St. Dominic’s, says this of Tim: “He develops the whole person. He directly recognizes each kid’s value. When they eventually see that value in themselves, that’s when everything kicks in and off they go.”

Tim deflects the credit. “Mission High offers as many AP classes as any public school in The City. Their approach to teaching and the structure they bring these students is remarkable. They take the challenges of this diverse community of students and bring them all together.”

Tim donates his modest annual stipend back into a scholarship program he developed called the Triple Threat. Each year, the seniors on both the boys’ and girls’ teams are tasked with writing an essay describing their experiences of being a student, an athlete and a citizen at Mission High School and beyond. The winners each receive $1,500 towards their college textbooks.

“I’m proud that so many of my former players come back to practices and games, offer to volunteer and even help coach. They remain a part of the program. What they understand when they graduate is that this was a great experience for them, and they place value in that.”

To Coach Halloran, the importance of his work goes beyond coaching. “High school made me. Jesuit ideals were instilled that I feel the need to pass on. I received support, counseling and help when I needed it. The things my players want are simple. They want love, care and attention, and they need an adult to listen to them when they need to express themselves. The fact that I get to do it while coaching basketball is the blessing.”

Somewhere, Steve Phelps is smiling.

The author has been a Broker Associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in the East Bay for the past 12 years. He played on the SI championship basketball team of 1975 before going to SCU, where he received his bachelor’s degree. After serving a 5-year sentence in Silicon Valley, he spent 20 years working with and for the Grateful Dead, eventually serving as VP of Licensing and Merchandising. He and his wife, Kiki, have a son, Sam, a freshman at the University of Oregon. 


Posted by Mr. Paul J. Totah on Monday April, 2

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