Retiring San Francisco Lowell head coach ends career with one of the highest win totals among all coaches in state history not to mention three straight section titles and a TransBay Series crown. We also have to go back to 1945 to find a previous State Baseball Coach of the Year from San Francisco.
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On the all-time list of Cal-Hi Sports state coaches of the year, which starts in 1933 and then to the end of World War II in 1945, four coaches from the old San Francisco Academic Athletic Association are shown as honorees.
However, since then, no baseball coach from what is now known as the CIF San Francisco Section has won the state’s top award. The section has never had one since the selections began being made in the late 1970s by Cal-Hi Sports founder Nelson Tennis.
There may be a shortage of water in California but the drought in the San Francisco Section is over.
Now, after 70 years without a winner on the list from the City by the Bay, John Donohue of Lowell (San Francisco) has been named the 2015 Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year for baseball.
“Wow, that’s unbelievable. What an honor. Thank you to Cal-Hi Sports,” Donohue said when informed he was receiving the honor.
As the winner, the veteran Cardinals’ head coach is not short on achievements that highlight his distinguished career.
This past season, his Lowell team won its third straight and 20th CIF San Francisco Section title with 14 championships coming during Donohue’s tenure.
The Cardinals also won a third consecutive and 7th overall TransBay championship in the annual match-up that began in 1985 with the winner of the CIF San Francisco and Oakland Sections squaring off in a best of three series. All seven of those titles came with Donohue at the helm.
The icing on the cake for Donohue is he receives the state’s most prestigious coaching honor in conjunction with his retirement after 33 years as the Cardinals’ skipper and a 735-390-4 record.
The coaching wins total is No. 7 all time according to the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book.
“I understand it’s been a long time since anyone from San Francisco has won but I really appreciate this award,” Donohue said. “It’s outstanding and a wonderful way to end my career – to be with such an honored group of coaches.”
Donohue now joins Bernie Baumeisiter (Commerce, 1937), George Wolfman (Mission, 1940), Ras Johnson (Galileo, 1941) and Leonard “Pop” Elder (Mission, 1945) to become the fifth San Francisco coach and first-ever from Lowell to be named State Coach of the Year.
In addition to the current honor, Donohue was the 2013 American Baseball Association National Coach of the Year and the 2007 District 8 Coach of the Year. He was also chosen as the 2006 California Coaches Association Baseball Coach of the Year. In 2012, Donohue was elected to the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame and in 2013 to the California Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Most recently, and after his retirement was announced, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee proclaimed May 6, 2015 John Donohue Day.
Besides all the records and accolades, Donohue made huge impressions in the San Francisco prep sports community, and in particular on CIF San Francisco Section Commissioner Donald Collins.
“John Donohue was the dean of our baseball coaches,” Collins said. “He set a tone that helped our schools work together even as they competed. I’ve known John since 1988 and he was well entrenched in this leadership role when I became commissioner in December, 2001. John earned this leadership role by building a great baseball program at Lowell, and approaching coaching in a way that showed a true respect for his team, his opponents and the game itself.”
“I think John Donohue is the definition of patience,” said San Francisco Chronicle prep editor and MaxPreps.com senior editor Mitch Stephens. “He stays calm and in control. Never is too up or down, which is exactly the personality you need for high school baseball. Beyond that, he’s sheer class, always one to credit his assistant coaches and, of course, his players. As someone who has covered him over his last 15 years, I’ll miss his humility, warmth and just general good nature. I’ll be one of many.”
A 1969 graduate of St. Ignatius (San Francisco) and then the University of San Francisco, the 63-year old Donohue was actually cut from the St. Ignatius baseball team, so along with his duties as the sports editor of the school newspaper he became the baseball student team manager. This is where his interest in coaching and teaching got started.
After graduating from USF, Donohue began coaching in CYO and the Bronco and Pony Leagues, and taught Catholic school in San Francisco.
Then, in 1983, he was hired to take over the varsity head coaching job at Lowell.
After 10 years teaching Catholic school, he then began a 25-year teaching career at Lowell where he taught English and social studies, and then from 1996 until his retirement from teaching in 2013 he taught physical education. From 1999-2005, he also served as the Lowell athletic director.
His first team went 6-9-1 and missed the playoffs but since then his Lowell teams have made the playoffs for 32 consecutive years.
This year’s team went 15-0 in league play and 26-9 overall. The Cardinals started the year with a trip to the Stanley Costales Tournament in Hilo, Hawaii where they had a 2-1 finish. The season ended in a TransBay Series win over Oakland Tech in three games. The Cardinals won the first game 5-4, lost 5-0, and then won the deciding game in a 4-1 victory.
Like many of Donohue’s teams, there wasn’t any one huge star but a multitude of contributors.
“We really didn’t have any big stars but a lot of kids that gave it their all,” Donohue remarked.
Senior Josh Ng was the SF Player of the Year and had a 9-2 record with a 1.73 ERA as a pitcher. He also hit .346. Ng got the win in the CIFSF championship 9-1 victory over arch-rival Washington at ATT Park. Cal Poly-bound Craig Colen got the save.
Two other players Donohue mentioned as team leaders were senior Nick Rolph and junior Matt Schivo. Rolph hit .362 with a team-leading 29 RBIs, including a double and an RBI in the season-ending 4-1 win over Oakland Tech. Schivo was named the CIFSF Pitcher of the Year after going 5-0 with a 0.88 ERA.
Lowell is also one of the top academic schools on the West Coast so it’s not surprising that this year’s team had a cumulative 3.54 GPA
Donohue has had some great players over the years, and just about all the kids that go to Lowell move on to college because of academics, but two of his players have gone on to successful professional careers.
Kevin Jordan was on his first section champion in 1987 and went on to play for the Philadelphia Phillies. Charlie Cutler, whose name graces the Ca-Hi Sports Record Book for his 71 RBIs in 2004, is now catching for the Los Angeles Angels AAA affiliate in Salt Lake City.
Donohue also has players that have returned to the program, including one of his protégés that will replace him next season, Daryl Semien, a current assistant and a member of the 1987 team who went on to St. Mary’s College.
“What I’m most proud of is so many of the players have come back to the program,” Donohue said.
Besides Semien as head coach next season, 1992 Lowell grad Romeo Aurelio will be an assistant, and the pitching coach will be 2004 alumnus Emil DeAndries.
“Baseball has been great and a wonderful hobby,” Donohue remarked about retiring. “I think I gave it a good run.”
All-Time List Cal-Hi Sports
State Baseball Coaches Of The Year
2015 — John Donohue, San Francisco Lowell (25-8)
2014 — James Davis, El Cajon Granite Hills (26-7)
2013 — Jeff Carlson, Elk Grove (29-5)
2012 — Steve Vickery, Lakeside El Capitan (31-7)
2011 ¬— John Goulding, Union City James Logan (24-4)
2010 — Tom Donald, Clovis Buchanan (29-5)
2009 — Pete Jensen, San Mateo Serra (30-6)
2008 — Jeff Phillips, La Mesa Grossmont (29-7)
2007 — John Diatte, San Jose Valley Christian (33-4)
2006 — Spud O’Neil, Lakewood (29-5-1)
2005 — Bill Hutton, San Jose Mitty (28-6)
2004 — Rick Steen, Danville San Ramon Valley (25-8)
2003 — Justin Machado, Carlsbad La Costa Canyon (32-1)
2002 — Dave Currie, Santa Clara Wilcox (34-3)
2001 — Tom Muesborn, Chatsworth (31-2)
2000 — Harry Jenkins, Torrance West (29-2)
1999 — Joe Walters, Santa Ana Calvary Chapel (27-1-1)
1998 — James Patrick, Clovis (33-2)
1997 — Dave Brunell, Santa Maria St. Joseph (29-0)
1996 — Dennis Pugh, San Diego Mission Bay (29-5)
1995 — Dave Demarest, Westminster La Quinta (28-3-1)
1994 — Ron LaRuffa, Fountain Valley (27-3-1)
1993 — Mike Maio, Woodland Hills El Camino Real (24-2)
1992 — Dan Peters, Long Beach Millikan (22-5-1)
1991 — Jeff Meredith, La Mesa Grossmont (28-1)
1990 — Mickey McNamee, San Marino (23-2-1)
1989 — Sam Blalock, San Diego Mt. Carmel (25-2)
1988 — Chris Sims, Moraga Campolindo (24-5)
1987 — Don Ardissone, San Jose Bellarmine (26-7)
1986 — Mike Curran, Anaheim Esperanza (25-3-1)
1985 — Dave Perkins, Hanford (23-5)
1984 — Darryl Stroh, Granada Hills (16-2-1)
1983 — Larry Quirico, El Cerrito (27-1)
1982 — Jim Garrett, Tulare (21-5)
1981 — Guy Anderson, Rancho Cordova (28-8)
1980 — Mike Noakes, Fresno Bullard (29-2)
1979 — John Bachman, Covina (27-3)
1978 — Al Endriss, Larkspur Redwood (30-5)
1977 — Lou Zuardo, South S.F. El Camino (28-1)
1976 — John Herbold, Lakewood (22-4-1)
1975 — Jack Hannah, Fresno Hoover (29-2)
1974 — Jim O’Brien, Torrance North (26-6-1)
1973 — John Stevenson, El Segundo (30-5)
1972 — Hi LaValle, Compton Dominguez (22-4-1)
1971 — Denny Holt, Sepulveda Monroe (19-0)
1970 — Dan Bodary, Lompoc (27-1)
1969 — Bob Myers, Long Beach Millikan (21-6)
1968 — Bill Sandback, San Diego Crawford (21-7)
1967 — Marvin Wood, Torrance Bishop Montgomery (27-3)
1966 — Bill Cox, Oakland St. Elizabeth (23-5)
1965 — Al Exton, Arcadia (21-4)
1964 — Bob Zuber, Van Nuys Birmingham (18-1)
1963 — Bill Kelly, Redondo Beach Aviation (20-3)
1962 — Dick Sperbeck, Sacramento Bishop Armstrong (22-2)
1961 — Elmo Ferrari, Ojai Villanova (17-0)
1960 — Jake Abbott, Fresno Roosevelt (20-2)
1959 — Howard Johnson, Inglewood Morningside (20-6)
1958 — Ken Proctor, Ontario Chaffey (20-5)
1957 — Ollie Bidwell, Fresno (22-2)
1956 — Bill Ziegler, Eureka (18-0)
1955 — Bob Patterson, Vallejo (20-1)
1954 — Ed Grimm, Redding Shasta (14-0)
1953 — Charles Doyle, Compton (23-2)
1952 — George Powles, Oakland McClymonds (16-0)
1951 — Cliff Perry, Sacramento McClatchy (22-0-1)
1950 — Harry Brubaker, L.A. Dorsey (17-0*)
1949 — Al Kyte, Oakland Technical (8-2, League)
1948 — Len Porterfield, Santa Maria (16-2)
1947 — Cliff Meyer, Long Beach Wilson (20-3)
1946 — Walt Williams, San Jose (17-2)
1945 — Pop Elder, S.F. Mission (10-0, League)
1944 — Bob Fatjo, San Jose Bellarmine (13-2)
1943 — Les Haserot, L.A. Fremont (13-1)
1942 — Roy Engle, San Diego Hoover (13-0 vs. Prep Teams)
1941 — Ras Johnson, S.F. Galileo (12-1*)
1940 — George Wolfman, S.F. Mission (11-1*)
1939 — Dewey Morrow, San Diego (22-5)
1938 — George Sperry, Glendale
1937 — Bernie Baumeister, S.F. Commerce (12-2, League)
1936 — Lyle Kinnear, Long Beach Polytechnic (23-2)
1935 — Ed Combatalade, Sacramento (20-1)
1934 — Myles Regan, L.A. Cathedral (13-5-1)
1933 — Kit Carlson, Santa Maria (9-1)
*League and playoff record
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend