Road to the State Championship: Barbour’s unwavering presence

Editor’s note: This is the first in a weeklong series of stories on the Sacred Heart Cathedral boys basketball team leading up to Saturday’s state championship game.

By Jeremy Balan

When Sacred Heart Cathedral was down by double digits early against Bishop O’Dowd in the Northern California Division III boys basketball championship game, there was no sign of panic from the Irish players.

They emulate their coach, Darrell Barbour, whose expression and demeanor on the sideline does not change whether the Irish are blowing an opponent out by 30 points or trailing by 20.

Sacred Heart Cathedral head coach Darrell Barbour's composed presence on the sideline has had its impact on the court for the Irish. (Photo by Doug Ko)

His most-common pose is standing, with one arm across his midsection and the other raised up to his chin, as if he is pondering his next move. It’s what he calls “seeing the game,” the same way he did as point guard growing up in eastern Menlo Park.

“One of the things I try to get my players to understand is the emotion of the game and to stay even-keeled,” Barbour said. “Being on that roller coaster of emotions is not a healthy thing. It wears you down physically and mentally. There’s nothing wrong with showing emotion as long as it’s controlled emotion.”

The demeanor and stability of the players is a top concern, but the way Sacred Heart plays lacks tight restraints. Barbour wants the Irish to play the game instinctively and in flow, able to make split-second adjustments and improvisations.

“It’s an instinctive game and if you take that away from good players, you handicap them,” Barbour said. “We have a concept and we have a philosophy, but I want them to play. Over time, you have to know your strengths as an individual. If you’re not a 3-point shooter, you shouldn’t take 3-point shots. Some players get it and if they don’t figure it out, they come watch the game with me.”

In his fifth year at Sacred Heart after 12 years at Woodside High School, Barbour embraces the label of “old school” in coaching and in life.

He doesn’t look at stats after games, and admitted that many times this season he didn’t know the final score or the team’s record. Instead, he relies on his intuition in “seeing the game.”

He also doesn’t shy away from telling his players exactly how he feels, but sometimes it only takes a glance.

“There are times in a game where they will know where I stand and know I’m not happy,” Barbour said. “For some that have been around me for a long time, all it will take is a look.”

Nothing, however, is more paramount than respect. He demands it from his players — even if it requires removing a hood or a hat from one of his players in the gym — but he also holds himself accountable and is not shy to admit when he has let the team or an individual down.

“I tell my kids all the time that I’m not a know-it-all,” Barbour said. “I don’t want to know it all. I want to have the hunger and passion to get better.”

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40 Comments

  1. SF_Mikey says:

    Great article JB!

    When I first started following SHC basketball a few years ago – I thought he was a bit of a flat liner as I typically like my BB coaches in the fiery Bobby Knight / Bobby Hurley mold. I’ve come to appreciate his coaching style and your article provides good insights into his coaching philosophy.

  2. WCAL Alum says:

    If you watch him from the stands, the game is never about him. As a casual observer, you wonder how SHC is able to maintain their composure and even keel, despite the high level intensity of most of their games.

    It seems over time he has allowed his players to take their chances and the product is a composed and instinctive group of young men-that is a recipe for success.

    Bottom line-I dont know how they do it, but they do it. That is coaching.

  3. @SA says:

    “It’s an instinctive game and if you take that away from good players, you handicap them,” Barbour said. “We have a concept and we have a philosophy, but I want them to play.

    SI coaches should take note. When you control the game from the bench and force your player to run a slow down offense you take their athletic ability away. Until SI lets in an outsider to teach the modern game, SI will be a sorry place to play basketball.

    Coach Barbour great job teaching the art of basketball to these student athletes.

    • Ari Gold says:

      You mean the offense that has their lightning fast point guard that can get to the rim anytime he wants but instead has him run the half court weave for 30 seconds all for a 3pt shot from 23ft by their 6’7 “shooting guard”? Yup, thats some fun ball.

      Actually Reardon is a very good coach and teacher. Whatever reason he has SI running his offense, he deserves complements for not letting those that disapprove of his methods, coaching style, play calling and bowing down to them.

      Balan great work on this article. Im sure it was a delight for you to interview Coach Barbour.

  4. Keep it real says:

    Nice Jb Thanks he does a great job and he seem to be very humble and bless!!!Good luck to him and the team in the State

  5. bballobserver says:

    As an outsider who has watched SH, it is a beautiful thing to see that coaching style, insight and brains pulls the mass of talent together. Don’t know Coach Barbour…..but he’s good. Our son has played with Taylor Johns (and Johnny Mrylik) over several years on the same Sunday run and gun league team (winning Championships the past some 4 years). Those teams were pulled together by Adam D’Acquisto (from CCSF). We have watched Taylor go from athlete to ball player and still preserve the smile and the fun. A quality coach a quality young man.

  6. rickjames says:

    Coach BArbour should conduct a seminar in SI , from Freshman to VArsity boys and girls coaches. they will learn a lot from him! LOL! Good luck! in the state finals COach Barbour!

  7. JJ says:

    How is wearing a hat or hood in a gym, disrespectful? Sometimes, I wear a hat because I’m getting bald. Also, if I didn’t take a shower that day, or just rolled out of bed, I wear a hat.

    • IC Stars says:

      It’s a safety issue J-dude. In every gym class I’ve ever been in, we were told not to wear a hat because it might fall off and somebody could slip on it and get hurt. I think they shouldn’t wear headphones out there either. If a ball is heading toward a player and he doesn’t see it, it won’t do him any good if he can’t hear someone warn him that a ball’s headed his way.

  8. Keep it real says:

    Come on
    Jj stop it!!! If you can’t figure that out than maybe
    I’m
    Going to
    Have to
    Seen
    You
    Back
    To
    SI
    For
    A year!!!! Lol

  9. M Air J says:

    I don’t have a dog in this fight but some of you are getting a bit carried away. Mr. Barbour seems like a fine man and his credentials speak for themselves but for those of you who say he should be teaching clinics, let’s wait and see how he does next year before we annoint him the next Phil Jackson. There is something to be said by not “screwing up” talent, which he has had. SHC has had the best talent of any school in the city since his arrival. But let us also remember that his state championship team was made up of mostly seniors as is this years team. Both of those teams lost in NorCals’s as juniors so the extra year of growth was invaluable. He has done a fine job but unless there is a significant upgrade to the remaining roster for next year, his coaching will really be put to the test. If the landscape of the WCAL remains the same, meaning Gordon stays at Mitty, I suspect we will see the irish fall back to the middle of the pack or maybe the lower half of league. If coach can keep the team in the upper echelon of the WCAL next year, then there is no questioning his ability. At this level, the best players tend to win and while coaching does play a large role, the team with the better players usually win in 90% of the games. The only exception seems to be Alloco at DLS, who’s in a class of his own, and possibly Forslund from Riordan now at HMB. With that said, best of luck to coach and the city boys this weekend!

    • Chris says:

      Matter of fact M Air J, SHC Freshman A’s went 20-1 this season winning WCAL. I bet you Coach B is not saying I wish I had a 6-7 guy in that bunch. He will make something of that bunch. As an alumni as long as he gets the guys to play well together and believe they can win, what more can you ask for? So the school is blessed to have what it has. I truly believe Coach B believes the philosophy Im pointing out.

      • M Air J says:

        Chris, as I mentioned in a previous posts, SI and Riordan finished 1-2 in league last year in the Frosh A division. This year their varsity finished 1-2…from the bottom. Frosh A success does not translate into Varsity success. I saw the SH freshman play and they were a good frosh team. In 3 years who knows how they will be.

        • Chris says:

          This is my point, coaching is important. Coach B will get the most of his players. You can not tell me SHC didn’t beat teams rated higher than them. They also lost some but the common denominator is each game the kids played hard and they did show up..The five losses they had combined were less than 10 or 12 points?

    • Whatever says:

      Another truly outstanding coach in bay area is Don Lippi at St. Joseph’s in Alameda. He did an outstanding job while at SI, taking his team to as high a ranking as #8 in nation (USA Today).

      While at St. Joe’s, he has again taken his team to a state final and has also won a California coach of the year award.

      In my opinion, the best HS coach in area.

      • Chris says:

        Don Lippi absolutely a great coach, no argument there.

        • E. K. says:

          I’d say Lippi, Doc Scheppler and Rich Forslund are among the elite coaches in the Bay Area.

          Coach Barbour is definitely up there.

        • Ari Gold says:

          LIKE: Don Lippi as St Joseph’s coach
          DISLIKE: Don Lippi as St. Ignatius coach

          If any SI alums can correct me on this but there were two major reasons why Lippi left as SI coach.
          #1) he lives in Alameda so no more commute into the city.
          #2) Luke Whitehead and his dad drove him crazy and just had enough of the primadonna player.

          • Crusader 88 says:

            Lippi also had success as head coach at Skyline HS in Oakland too!

            • cityfan says:

              I remember the 1989 NorCal Division I Finals between Lippi’s Oakland-Skyline vs. Ron Isola’s Riordan team (featuring Dwayne Fontana, Dorian Manigo, Jamie Edwards and Rich Buckner). Riordan pulled away in the 2nd half and won by double digits.

          • Whatever says:

            Ari Gold – you may be right. I’m not an SI alum but do follow the program. I do know that Whitehead left after his junior year and transferred to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.

  10. Chris says:

    M Air J, maybe he not hold clinics but he has been a winner the last 5 years. Remember Fox and Johns were on the varsity approximately for three full years, they did not become stars overnight. Matter of fact, they didn’t have a winning record in the WCAL their sophmore year, but still won CCS? Somebody correct me if Im wrong. They were just athletes that had potential. What should be recognized is that Coach B has worked with the potential he has and helped create a TEAM of winners. This is what coaching is about, getting people to contribute to the common goal of winning and doing the best you can with what you have.

  11. JJ says:

    Phil Jackson only had Michael Jordan, Kobe, and Shaq whenever he coached, so I’m not sure how good of a coach he would be if he had the GS Warriors roster. We will see how Coach Barbour does next year, but I’m sure they will still be tough, but without the size. Pratt and James will be a senior and Liam O’Reilly will be a junior as well as Deondre Otis. Parsons may get significant playing time as well, but I think next year’s team may be out-rebounded in alot of games.

  12. Keep it real says:

    M air j you are right on something’s!!! But this team didn’t make it two the nor cals finals last year!! And they only have 3 seniors that play a lot on this team!!! Yes I do think they will be maybe 3rd in Wcal next year but with that said!!! Coach b will get his team to play hard and the right way next year and that’s all you can ask from a coach who just took his team to the state the year before!!

  13. COncerned Citizen says:

    This is comical. After the SHC-Burlingame, one of the SH seniors was walking around SI gym with an afro-pick in his hair. Either the players don’t listen to their coach or the rules only apply at home, haha. A pick is much worse than a hat. Chew on that Keep it Real!

  14. Whatever says:

    Please. As M Air J states, the team with the better players will generally win 90% of the time- I don’t care how good the coach is.

    • Chris says:

      Whatever= That is funny you say that, because many people said SI was suppose to have the better players this year, people talked about how great their team was, but how did that translate to wins for SI? Many said they were the team to watch with SD31 and TD. So coaching does have something to do with how the team performs, right? And to concerned citizen, at SI anything goes right? I don’t know one senior with really long hair on that team. But the senior probably took that out of the SI locker room..:)

  15. City Lights says:

    SI had two first team all-league players and a solid team surrounding them. I root for all city teams but I’m sorry SI, Barbour absolutely owns you.

    The good ol’ boy coaching network runs deep. lol Maybe Drucker can come back next year? Maybe the AD John Mulkerrins can coach the boys like his brother Mike Mulkerrins who coaches the girls!

    I know what the Cats can do. Maybe if they wear the short shorts from back in the day their antique offense will run smoother. They can shoot free throws underhanded and have sock hops out in the Sunset after games.

    Ice cream floats for everyone!

    • HS says:

      …and erase the 3 point line and turn off the shot clock to make their 70’s offense hum. I thought Drucker was still coaching- at least it appears that way when he sits behind the bench. He was great in his day, but the game has changed.

  16. Keep it real says:

    You are funny Mr cc!!! And I love how you used the word afro-pick!!!! And I see
    You were checking out someone on Shc a lot!!! Maybe you should have just sent your kid their and you would have a more open mine!!!! Just so you no the kid is a great student and person!!!and he said he wasnt cutting his hair til he won state!!! So maybe after you look at him play one more time
    On Saturday !!! You can take him
    To go get a haircut !!!

    • COncerned Citizen says:

      Keep it real, I am a kid, I’m in HS. Secondly, this just shows that the “lessons” the kids are supposedly being taught, mean nothing. Third, if going to SHC means having your grammar, I’m glad I didn’t go there.

  17. Whatever says:

    I will be impressed if Barbour’s team defeats a more talented (two D1 commits), bigger, 31-4 Bishop Alemany team this Saturday in state finals.

    Don’t hold your breath though. I see Alemany winning by 15+.

    • JJ says:

      I don’t think Alemany is bigger. They got outrebounded like 2 to 1 in their last game vs John Bosco. They won basically on a buzzer-beater. I know 1 player got a D1 to Nevada, not sure who the other D1 recruit is.

      • merkinworld says:

        JJ, their 5’9″ point guard has an offer from Hawaii, according to the LA Times. I agree about the size thing . They were out-rebounded 49-30 by st john Bosco. On paper both BOD and Center were bigger than SH. It all depends on how good the bigs are. Center had two 6’8″ underclassmen who only played in garbage time.

        • JJ says:

          Just by looking at the roster and the stats, Alemany is a very quick team. The only way a 5-9 player gets a D1 basketball scholarship is to be lightning quick. It’s good SHC already faced a lightning quick PG in BOD last week. He gave alot of problems to SHC. The other D1 guy is a 6-3 or 6-4 forward. At least SHC already faced Longrus, so they will know what to expect. Also, playing in Arco already will be beneficial to the NorCal teams such as SHC. From witnessing last week’s games, most of the teams had trouble shooting from long-distance and I saw horrible FT shooting in all the games.

  18. Chris says:

    Maybe not at Riordan or SI freshman basketball wins do not translate to varsity success. But look at what Coach B did with Johns and Fox and Tapel, they were all brought up early in the high school years. They were not star players in the beginning. I think Coach B knows talent he brings up kids he see’s with potential early. Like Otis and O’reilly, I think O’reilly was on the Freshman B’s. In fact because of the Frosh success I think next year’s varsity team might have a lot of younger class man. Maybe they will have more sophomore’s than seniors. ….He puts the pieces in place for success. They will take some lumps because it will be obviously a rebuilding year but they will be competitive I give you that.

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