Boys Basketball: Lincoln head coach Gragnani dies of apparent heart attack

By Jeremy Balan

Lincoln High School head boys basketball coach Mike Gragnani died today of an apparent heart attack, according to school and CIF-San Francisco Section officials.

Gragnani was in his fifth year at the helm of the Lincoln boys program, but prior to that, spent time as the head coach at Berkeley High School and Redwood High School in Larkspur, and also served as an assistant coach at St. Ignatius.

Lincoln was set to play Mission in both teams’ Academic Athletic Association opener Wednesday, but the game has been postponed. Lincoln Athletic Director Kenyatta Scott was still unsure about any postponements after Wednesday.

Frosh/Soph head coach Matt Jackson will take over coaching duties for the varsity team once the Mustangs begin play again.

Many details are still unavailable and plans for funeral services have not been set, but the news has already had a substantial impact on the San Francisco prep sports community.

“I’ve known Mike for 20 years, well before he began coaching for [Lincoln], from coaching 6-year-old kids to 50-year-old men,” said CIF-SF Commissioner Don Collins. “He did it with character, and you don’t replace a guy like that, not only in San Francisco, but in the entire Bay Area.”

Wallenberg head coach Patrick Mulligan has known Gragnani since their time as students at St. Ignatius. Mulligan was a freshman student manager while Gragnani was a senior on the baseball and basketball teams.

“He was a really good guy, a family man, and he was terribly dedicated to the craft of being a basketball coach,” Mulligan said. “He was really committed to the kids of San Francisco and had a impact on the North and East Bays too.”

Last week, Gragnani was scouting Mission in the Sand Dune Classic at St. Ignatius, preparing for the league opener.

“We kind of came into the league at the same time, but a couple of years ago he was thinking about walking away, and we had an hour-long conversation about it. I tried to convince him not to go and how much he means to the league and to the City,” said Mission head coach Arnold Zelaya. “I told my kids, ‘San Francisco high school sports took a big hit today.’”

During his time with the Mustangs, Gragnani had a 89-61 record.

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16 Comments

  1. SF Ref says:

    What a tragedy. Prayers go out to his family. Rest In Peace Coach.

  2. Sean Moler says:

    I coached under Mike for two seasons at Lincoln, and he taught me virtually everything I know. Coach G was pure basketball, an innovative and inspirational coach who worked harder than anyone I’ve ever met. He was an incredible mentor, a genuine person, and will be sorely missed. Thank you for everything Coach.

  3. WCAL Alum says:

    Puts everything into perspective. His legacy will be his postive contribution to prep sports in the Bay Area and the young men he nurtured. Peace

  4. #14 says:

    R.I.P coach!! Each game is for you !

  5. Joshua Levine says:

    Tough loss for Lincoln and the rest of the AAA. I remember meeting Mike after a Lincoln girls basketball game. One of the nicest men I have talked to since I started this job. RIP.

  6. Bonta says:

    My condolences goes out to the Gragnani family. I had the pleasure of meeting him at City College last season. Stand up guy. Would always have his players with him at games. I Lincoln will be playing with heavy hearts this season for their coach. RIP Mike

  7. Bob Sarlatte says:

    Like all the great guys I’ve met who coach, Mike was always willing to “share his hoop secrets!” I remember him giving me great drills, an outstanding play against the “box and one” and much more. But certainly above all that, he was outgoing, fun and someone who definitely got the most out of his players, and in return they always gave their best for him…A huge loss for City hoops and the AAA.

  8. Robert Ray says:

    I talked to Mike almost everyday during the season about hoops in the AAA. I feel lost today and will for sometime. He was a mentor an inspiration and most importantly a friend. My heart goes out to his family, friends and players. I, as I am sure everyone who is involved in AAA basketball will be thinking of him today and everytime we take the court, it will never be the same.

  9. Joshua Levine says:

    I encourage all fans of Coach Mike to attend their scheduled game Friday against Jordan at Lincoln High School. While I will not be able to attend myself, I think it would be a great gesture by all of us who knew him. Coach Mike’s tragic death is a good reminder that there are more important things than sports. He loved the game of basketball, so we should all go see his team perform Friday. RIP Mike.

  10. James Halm says:

    A great friend to the game of basketball and all of those in it is gone. Mike was a good person and a real “giver”. Condolences to his wife, kids, brother and parents. Mike is already and will continue to be greatly missed. God Bless Mike Gragnani.

  11. Pete Cooney says:

    So saddened to learn of Mike’s sudden passing. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and the Lincoln High School community.
    I will fondly remember him as a wonderful person who lived life to the fullest and had a positive impact on so many others.
    I’m grateful to have known him. He’ll be missed.

  12. Tom Prete says:

    What a blow — not only to Mike’s family, but I’m sure to the extended family of young people he coached over the years. It’s been a long time, but if I remember correctly, at St. Stephen’s Mike was my fourth-grade basketball coach, sixth-grade baseball coach and somewhere in there my soccer coach, too. He was a good guy.

  13. Rich Forslund says:

    My thoughts and prayers are with Mike’s family, his friends ( I was lucky to be one) and all his players, past and present. He will be truly missed. Very sad day for the AAA and his players at Lincoln. Mike worked tirelessly as a coach and mentor for many SF youth basketball players and gave much of his time and money in the process. Great coaching colleague, who was generous with his insights, knowledge, humor and passion. There are not many coaches around who could match his intensity and work ethic. You will be greatly missed by many, but I hope I speak for many in the coaching fraternity, your enthusiasm for the game will inspire others. Thank you for dedication and inspiration to so many young players.

  14. coach41 says:

    I never really knew Mike but saw him around when I officiated. I saw him about a month ago when I officiated a frosh/soph boys game at Lincoln before the varsity squad played. In fact, during the St. Ignatius Sand Dune Classic, he was there again watching Mission High play. Mike was always passionate but his kids always gave it their best.

    It’s a shame that the local basketball community has lost one of it’s own.

  15. Basketball Fan says:

    My prayers go out to the coach’s family. Thank you for teaching our kids to play ball.

  16. Feb 12th 2011, I just found out about Mike’s passing in a note from his wife Vera. I am so sorry that a
    wonderful person in the prime of his life with two great children and a terrific wife has left us so soon . I know
    he has left a lasting impression on all that he did and those that he knew . No words can express the sadness
    that we feel for his family and the community . May his soul rest in peace and his family heal.

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