The Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School Men’s Basketball Team’s February 21 win against Gateway was more than just another win for Don Lippi, the longtime head coach of the program.
It wasn’t just because it was the first round of NCS playoffs, in which the Pilots had the number one seed at home, and not just because it would catapult the team to the NCS quarterfinals and the championship thereafter.
This particular win marked an incredible milestone - the 850th win for Coach Lippi, officially cementing himself as the winningest coach in Northern California men’s high school basketball history.
“It means a lot of relationships,” he said when asked what the milestone meant to him. “When you’re around that many young people for that many years, they’re now grown up and you run into them, and you run into their children. It’s all about those relationships...I got a call from a past player today who called and said, ‘I’m glad I was a part of those wins...’ [those kids] are forever my kids.”
Lippi, who began his coaching career at St. Joseph High School in the 70s, has been coaching high school for 39 years, 18 of which have been here at SJND. He’s coached at various locations throughout the Bay Area, including one season at Stanford University.
“When I first started coaching, they started giving me paychecks and I would just put them away. ‘You’re really going to pay me for this?’ I said. I couldn’t believe it. For me, it’s all fun.”
A few favorite memories include the 2009 Northern California Championships Semifinal, in which the team, with three minutes to spare, made a 19-point comeback to win the game and advance to State. He also cherishes the 2011 State Championship game, winning it with his son Dominic.
On March 3, Coach Lippi was presented with the NCS Honor Coach Award for outstanding coaching accomplishments, of which include over 850 career wins, 16 section championships and four state championships. And yet, despite these recent achievements, Coach Lippi, who turned 70 this year, doesn’t plan to slow down any time soon.
“I’m as energized now as I’ve ever been, same preparation, same effort, same excitement...If i ever stop doing this, I’d have to have, like, 4,000 other things to fill the time,” he joked. “Nothing’s going to give you that same juice, that jolt you feel.”
“Sometimes I have to pinch myself. I’ve got a beautiful family and I get to do my passion every day...These numbers are just numbers. A game is just a number. What’s important is what you accomplished with those kids whether you won the game or lost the game.”
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