Good Sports: Jim McCall

FRESNO, Calif.

"I would always tell them, 'When you walk off that court, did you do the best job you could do tonight?'" said Coach McCall. "And if they could say yes to that, the outcome of the game is the outcome of the game."

He's the only head boys basketball coach the Eagles program has ever had, and earlier this week, in his 44th year at the school, McCall coached his 1,000th career game at Firebaugh.

"A lot of people want to go here, go there," said McCall. "I've had opportunities to go elsewhere and I've said no. Because I love the community, I love these kids."

"He got the best out of us," said Firebaugh grad Joel Allen. "He got the most out of every player. I have great, fond memories playing for [Coach McCall]."

Allen played for Coach McCall back in the early 1980's. Now his son Josh is a senior guard and little brother Jason a junior center. Joel Allen feels lucky his kids are getting the same tutelage he got three decades ago.

"Not only my grandparents and my wife's parents, but everybody's involved when it comes to these games," said Joel Allen. "It's such an exciting time for us to watch our boys play for a coach that coached me."

"Oh I would love if my kids could play for Coach McCall," said assistant coach Michael Barragan, who played under McCall and graduated in 2006. "Especially if I'm still here helping him, because I know they are going to have a great leader, a great mentor in basketball, and they'll grow as people if they get the chance to play for him."

Coach McCall insists there is no secret to achieving the longevity and success he's earned along Highway 33. Other coaches ask him for advice all the time. His answer is surprising.

"You need to take care of your family first," said McCall. "That's the most important thing you can do. Then you have your basketball family. Don't forget your family over your basketball family."

Family is everywhere, with former players in the stands, even on his coaching staff. Coach McCall admits that he never thought he'd get here.

"One reason or another," said McCall. "It could be health issues, it could be anything. It could be love of the game. And that's the thing. I still love the game, I still have a passion for it."

And the Firebaugh community is already looking forward to Coach McCall's 1,100th game.

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