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Legendary San Marcos High Basketball Coach Maury Halleck Dies at 86

23-year career included appearances in two CIF Finals, and storied 1980-1981 Runnin’ Royals team is considered one of Santa Barbara’s best ever

Maury Halleck coached San Marcos High School boys basketball for 23 years, winning 341 games along the way. Halleck’s teams played in two CIF Finals, and the 1980-1981 squad — known as the Runnin’ Royals — electrified fans and the community.
Maury Halleck coached San Marcos High School boys basketball for 23 years, winning 341 games along the way. Halleck’s teams played in two CIF Finals, and the 1980-1981 squad — known as the Runnin’ Royals — electrified fans and the community. (Randy Weiss photo)

Maury Halleck, San Marcos High School’s legendary boys basketball coach, died Sunday of natural causes, his family said Monday. He was 86.

Halleck coached the Royals basketball team for 23 years, winning seven league titles and playing in two CIF Finals. He had a great run between 1978 and 1981, winning three Channel League titles, 43 straight regular-season games and the prestigious Tournament of Champions.

The 1979-1980 and 1980-1981 teams each lost only one game. The 1980-1981 team was known as the Runnin’ Royals because of the crowd-pleasing, up-tempo style they played. The team didn’t have a starter taller than 6-4 but it played with great cohesiveness and aggressiveness.

"Best team I've ever seen in Santa Barbara," said Westmont coach John Moore on Monday. "What I love about coach Halleck, he was one of the all-time greats in terms getting his players to play at the highest level and his compassion for his players really exuded and helped create a synergy between those players that was very uncommon. I've seen it up close — my assistant Jeff Azain played for Maury, Jerry Karczewski, his son is in our program right now, Jon Korfas, another local guy."

“I was a great fan of that team,” Stan Morrison told the Los Angeles Times in a story about the San Marcos basketball program. Morrison, a former coach at USC, was athletic director at UC Santa Barbara at the time.

“They played with such a flow, a rhythm, that it was really entertaining,” he said. “They played with the highest confidence in their ability and in each other, and they didn’t try to do things they weren’t capable of doing.”

The Runnin’ Royals went 26-1, losing only in the CIF-Southern Section 4A final against Long Beach Poly. The 4A was the highest division at the time.

“I don’t think I’ll ever see a team like that again,” Halleck told the Times. “The chemistry was just perfect with those kids.”

He was named CIF State Coach of the Year in 1981, and he was Southern Section Coach of the Year four times.

San Marcos High School athletic directors past and present, from right, Maury Halleck, Abe Jahadhmy and John Stoney. Click to view larger
San Marcos High School athletic directors past and present, from right, Maury Halleck, Abe Jahadhmy and John Stoney. (Randy Weiss photo)

Halleck coached San Marcos basketball from 1958 to 1981, compiling a record of 341-202. He took his teams to the CIF playoffs 13 times.

In January 2010, San Marcos paid tribute to Halleck by naming the gymnasium in his honor.

He’s been inducted into the CIF-SS, Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table and San Marcos High School Halls of Fame.

In addition to his success in basketball, Halleck also coached the San Marcos boys tennis team to three league titles and the softball team to a pair of championships. He served two stints as the school’s athletic director, from 1966 to 1972 and 1986 to 1989.

“Maury hired me as a soccer coach at San Marcos,” current San Marcos athletic director Abe Jahadhmy told Noozhawk. “He was always so supportive and knew I always had a good friend.”

A graduate of Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., Halleck started his coaching and teaching career in 1955 in Washington before coming to Santa Barbara. His first job was coaching football and basketball at Santa Barbara High before arriving at San Marcos in 1958.

Sal Rodriguez, former executive director of the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County, played on Halleck’s first basketball team at San Marcos in 1958. He was an All-CIF player in 1961, when the team advanced to the CIF 3A Final.

The coach had a huge impact on his life.

“There are three men in my life who made a difference, one of them being Maury Halleck, and I always told him that,” Rodriguez said.

“When I was in high school I wasn’t a very good student and I was told I wasn’t going to amount to anything. He stuck with me. When I graduated from Fresno State, I called him. He said, ‘One of the best phone calls I ever got was when you called me to tell me that you graduated. That was really good.’”

Rodriguez and Halleck had that conversation on Friday.

He said Halleck was like a father to him, and he enjoyed it when Halleck attended games at Laguna Blanca School, where Rodriguez coached. “He critiqued what I was doing right and doing wrong. It was always great when he came to Laguna Blanca.”

But there was more to Halleck than coaching, he noted.

“He taught you how to live life, how to be a good citizen, how to be a good student and that kind of stuff,” Rodriguez said.

Halleck had a special place in his heart for his student-athletes, and Rodriguez recalled a conversation he had with Halleck’s wife of 63 years, Lorrene.

“‘He truly cared about you guys,’” he said she told him. “‘His family came first but you guys were second.’”

“He was always there, and not just for basketball, but any problems you had in life,” Rodriguez continued. “He’d sit down and talk to you. He wouldn’t tell you what to do but he’d listen.”

Coach Halleck is survived by his wife, Lorrene and children Brad, Brian, Kevin and Maurene, as well as by many grandchildren.

A funeral service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 2, at San Roque Catholic Church, 3200 Calle Cedro in Santa Barbara.

The family is planning a celebration of Halleck’s life at a later date.

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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