Video: De La Salle vs. Chaminade - 2015 MLK Classic
One of the country's most respected high school basketball coaches is headed to the college ranks.
Frank Allocco, who led
De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
to two state titles and Northgate to one, has accepted the associate men's job at the University of San Francisco under head coach Rex Walters.
Known for leading highly structured, tough-minded defensive squads, Allocco piled up a career record of 654-99 in 24 seasons, including 27-5 for De La Salle in 2014-15. He also coached the 2014 McDonald's All-American West team to victory.
At 62, Allocco might just be the oldest first-year assistant in college basketball history. But the fit and trim Allocco didn't start coaching high school basketball until he was 38. His progression from CYO coach for 15 years to high school to college is very much unique.
He recently lost 15 pounds on the "LeBron James no sugar, no carb" plan. "I'm fit and lean and ready to go," he said. "I've told all my players over the years to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I wouldn't be following my own advice if I didn't take on this challenge."
With nine returners, including three-year starters Nikhil Peters
and Jordan Ratinho
, the 2015-16 team was supposed to be one of his best.
Allocco was offered a similar post at St. John's three years ago and considered it seriously because it was so near his roots. A record-setting basketball scorer at New Providence (N.J.), Allocco was a three-sport standout who earned a football scholarship to Notre Dame.
He was ready for the St. John's offer two years ago, but he couldn't uproot his California home. Two weeks ago, Walters approached him about the USF post. Everything made sense.
"Everything happened very quickly," Allocco said. "The timing was great. It's a great opportunity. I have great respect for Rex and is someone I know I can work with. It's going to be a great marriage."
Led by Bill Russell and K.C. Jones, USF won national championships in 1955 and 1956, but has been to the NCAA tournament only twice since 1982, losing both times in the first round. In seven seasons, Walters has a 112-112 record, including 14-18 in 2014-15.
In a prepared statement, Walters said: "For the past seven years I've watched Frank coach his De La Salle teams and have always been impressed with the way he led, coached, guided and mentored his players and teams. I wanted to bring that type of influence, knowledge, work ethic and attention to detail to our program here at USF.
"There are too many things to list that I know Frank will bring to our program. We are excited to work with him and continue to build on what has been a very competitive program for the last seven seasons."
In 18 years at De La Salle, Allocco led the Spartans to 17 league crowns, three Northern California titles and state crowns in 2000 and 2006. More than 60 of his players have gone on to play college basketball.
Beyond his own players, Allocco, 62, is considered one of the nation's top teachers and ambassadors of the game. Last summer, he led a basketball camp in Shanghai, China, and wrote a week-long diary for MaxPreps. He's a national public speaker.
In addition to the McDonald's game, Allocco was also the head coach at the Jordan Brand All-Star game and at the Nike Hoop Jamboree.
"Great athletic traditions are something that has always resonated with me," Allocco said. "It's what drew me to Notre Dame and inspired me to build winning programs at Northgate and De La Salle. The incredible tradition that echoes through the rafters and permeates throughout the USF basketball program has drawn me to the Hilltop.
"I'm excited to work with Coach Walters in creating a culture of excellence that will carry that tradition to new heights and bring honor to the University and the Bay Area."
Though the timing was right and the challenge great for Allocco, saying goodbye to his players Monday after school was difficult. There were a lot of tears, he said. One of Allocco's best friends, former head football coach Bob Ladouceur, was present during the meeting.
"I told them that though I won't be in the building, I will always be their coach," Allocco said. "It's never about the four years, but a lifetime. I'm just down the street and I'll be there for them."
Next year's team was one the program had been pointing to for a couple of years. "I feel good that there's lots of talent for the next coach. The cupboard wasn't left bare. I'll be their biggest fan and whatever I can do to help make the transition easier I will."
One of Allocco's biggest supporters was of all people, arch rival Monte Vista (Danville) coach Nick Jones, whose team was a giant thorn in the side of De La Salle. Monte Vista has beaten the Spartans six straight times — no program has beat an Allocco-coached team more than two straight times — by a total margin of 22 points. Every game was nip and tuck, down to the wire, including a 50-49 Monte Vista win in the North Coast Section Division I finals at St. Mary's College.
"Frank Allocco definitely set the bar for all of us," Jones said. "De La Salle went from a Bay Area power to a state and national power once he arrived. Frankly, I'm surprised more offers didn't come sooner. He'll do a great job at USF.
"He forced me to step up every facet of our program. He's been phenomenal for high school sports not only in Northern California, but also the state and the nation. I'm going to miss our games with him. All of them could have gone either way. They are great memories. I wish him nothing but the best."