Super Bowl coach back to SF beginnings
A college National Championship, Rose Bowl titles, two NFC Championships and a Super Bowl title are on the resume of SF State alum Gil Haskell.
With all those accomplishments, his greatest honor will be May 19 when he is inducted into the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame for his work as a high school coach in his hometown.
“About three years ago the [Archbishop] Riordan [High School] and S.I. [St. Ignatius High School] football game they said ‘Okay, it’s the Gil Haskell football game,’ and they got a trophy and my name is on it and the team that wins the game gets the trophy. Well all the things I did in college and pro, that’s bigger,” Haskell said. “In all the things that I’ve done, this [the HoF] is bigger. One, I did good but the guys that I coached appreciate what I did, both having the Haskell trophy and this are as big of honors as you can get.”
Haskell is a San Franciscan through and through. He grew up in the city, went to college at SF State and then coached high school sports at two San Francisco Catholic high schools.
Before taking up coaching, Haskell was a player at SF State and had always wanted to be a player in the NFL.
“When I was in grammar school my uncle was a doctor for the 49ers,” Haskell said. “So when I was in the sixth grade he would take me to the game and I would sit on the bench at Kezar [Stadium]. He’d sit me down and say ‘Now listen — sit down, shut up, just watch, and don’t tell your mother what you hear’ because they swore, but I loved it. So I said I’m going to be a player, so then I played high school football and I played at State and I had a tryout with the 49ers but I got cut.”
When he got cut, then-49ers head coach Jack Christensen told Haskell it might be time to take up coaching, a thought that had already crossed his mind.
He joined the football staff at Archbishop Riordan as an assistant coach and also coached the track team for three years. In Haskell’s first year with Riordan the football team won the conference championship and the track team won the Catholic Championship two of the three years.
From Riordan, Haskell moved on to St. Ignatius where he was an assistant on the football team for four years and the head coach for five. Again, he coached track while he was a football assistant, leading the track team to three championships. Although football was his passion, he took to track and used his position as freshmen P.E. teacher to find his athletes.
“My first year I was teaching freshman P.E. and I’d run everyone on a lap after the P.E. class,” he said. From those runs he’d direct kids to the different teams on campus based on how well they ran.
When Haskell finally took over as St. Ignatius’ head football coach he turned all his focus to the sport he loved the most. He led the team to a 34-13 record over his five years in charge.
That success got Haskell nominated for the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame. His other accolades are noteworthy, but the hall of fame is focused exclusively on high school sports in the city of San Francisco.
“Anyone can nominate a candidate. There is a four-page nomination form,” said Marc Christensen, president of the SF Prep Hall of Fame. “This is about what they did in high school. We don’t consider post-high school accomplishments. They must’ve coached a minimum of ten years [at SF high schools].”
It’s because of these requirements that well-known San Franciscans like Joe DiMaggio have never been honored in the local Hall.
This isn’t the only local honor Haskell has received. He is also a member of the “Gator Greats” as listed by university communications. He is still active with SF State even though football has long gone, and Brandon Davis, the associate director of athletics for communications and fan development, appreciates having Haskell around.
“Having somebody who’s had that success but who also cares about his roots and the history here is incredible,” Davis said. “The stories that he’s able to tell are something that you won’t find in any filing cabinet, and he makes that history come to life.”
Haskell’s induction will take place Saturday, May 19 at Patio Espanol on Alemany Boulevard in San Francisco.