PORT ORCHARD — The 2018-2019 basketball season and school year will be the last one for long-time South Kitsap School District coach John Callaghan.
Now in his 20th season at the helm of the South Kitsap High School boys team and 36th year coaching in the district, Callaghan plans to retire after next year.
Callaghan, 59, is a South Kitsap alum. He spent 10 years at Marcus Whitman Middle School and six more as an assistant for the high school boys team before taking over the top job. As of Jan. 31, his record at South Kitsap is 293-171.
“I’m just at the end of the road,” Callaghan said, joking that his next move is to become a golf pro. He will retire from both coaching and teaching.
In coming to his decision, Callaghan said it was simply time for someone new to come in and take over.
“It’s always kind of a five-year deal for me, talking it over with [my wife] Denise every five years,” Callaghan said.
“I just think it’s the right time for me to go. I’m going to be 60, I’m not getting any younger.
“I still love it, I still enjoy it. We’ve had a rough year this year, but the kids have been awesome. The ball hasn’t bounced our way, but they’ve worked really hard.”
Indeed, with a roster populated mostly by juniors and sophomores, the young Wolves have lost a number of close games this season. The team will miss out on the postseason, but that experience, coupled with the return of all five starters and several role players, should help Callaghan go out on a high note next season.
Callaghan was also impressed by the performance of assistant coach Brian Cox during his two-game suspension earlier in the season.
Callaghan was ejected from a Jan. 9 game against Olympia after picking up two technical fouls. He refused to leave the floor without an explanation from the referees after getting the second technical. The coach agreed to sit an additional game beyond the one-game ban handed out by the WIAA.
Cox, a former South Kitsap player himself, went 1-1 in those two games with a win over Sumner and a four-point loss to Emerald Ridge. Callaghan said Cox would be a great choice to take over the program.
“He’s so solid, he’s knowledgeable and he has a great relationship with the kids,” Callaghan said.
“He was a great player for us back when he played and he’s just a class act. He would be awesome.”
But any notion of Callaghan jetting off for warmer climes anytime soon would be inaccurate. He said he still plans to remain active in the community that has given so much to him over the years.
“It’s been a totally positive experience for me and my family. There are parents of kids I’ve coached in the past, and even when I see them now in the community, they don’t shake my hand — they hug me.
“It’s been a great relationship.”
Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at mkrulish@sound publishing.com.