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Hallman Can Finally Relax

Posted: March 6, 2008 12:50 a.m.
Updated: May 7, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Former Saugus High boys basketball head coach Jeff Hallman, standing far left, gestures to an official in his last home game Feb. 15 against Burroughs. The 49-year-old Hallman resigned after 14 years on Tuesday.

 

It's almost as if there was a sense of peace for Jeff Hallman this season.

Now the ex-head coach of the Saugus High boys basketball team, the 49-year-old, as expected, downplays it.

The assumption, though, comes from appearance and sound.

Hallman, who resigned as Centurions head coach Tuesday, paced the sidelines in 2007-08 with a greater amount of calm.

Smiles were more abundant and positivity more prevalent.

Not that they all weren't there before, but Hallman has always been very low key, almost giving off the appearance of being aloof.

This season lots of stress and frustration seemed to be alleviated from his voice and life.

In 2007, he had one of his most tumultuous seasons - unlucky No. 13.

In the middle of Foothill League play, Hallman saw his team disintegrate.

Eight players walked out on him, though three returned.

It could have been the breaking point of the man's career.

His name was muddied.

But Hallman plugged away and his team finished off its season with honor.

There were rumors here and there that he would step down after the season.

"I've always maintained I would not leave because people were complaining," he said in February 2007.

So he did it on his own terms.

Hallman, whether he needed to be or not, was a changed man during the 2007-08 season.

His players seemed to enjoy playing for him.

The ultimate sign, though, was the play of his team.

The 2007-08 Centurions were a bit of a surprise.

Not because they were good, but because they were really good.

Saugus was precise and displayed a tremendous amount of effort on both sides of the ball.

It was a display of a group of kids buying into what their coach was trying to teach.

Saugus players regularly spoke of team chemistry, which was obviously lacking in 2006-07.

It had to have come from the top.

Hallman says he knew it would be his last season from the start.

After the Saugus Shootout, the team's annual pre-league tournament, Hallman says he thought about it being his last.

He didn't tell his team that this was the end, yet they responded to whatever he was doing.

The Centurions had their best start in his 14 seasons, winning their first 10 games and entering league play at 15-3.

They were blue collar - like so many of his other teams.

He once had a squad whose mantra was "Bring your hard-hats and lunch bucket."

There were some great moments to end on this season, including the 200th win of his career this year - achieved on a half-court buzzer-beater Jan. 29 against West Ranch.

In 14 years, there have been others.

Hallman took the head coaching job after his best friend and current Saugus girls coach Eric Olsson suddenly resigned.

Hallman says he had to be convinced to take the job and thought it would last four, maybe five years max.

In 2002, senior forward center Sheldon Bell was killed in a car accident.

The Saugus team collected itself and won the next game it played in his memory.

Two years later, the Centurions knocked off No. 1 seeded Oxnard in three overtimes in the CIF-Southern Section Division I-A quarterfinals in a huge upset and one of the greatest basketball games in this valley's history.

Then came last year's win over Valencia, playing with seven players after the walkout.

He cited a need to spend more time with his family as a reason for resigning - something of great importance to him.

His daughter Callie played the National Anthem on her violin before many games this season for the Centurions.

But there were times Hallman rushed to see her other performances.

He was also tired after 14 seasons.

Presumably from the stress of working long hours.

But appearances are deceiving.

There are things many people don't know about Jeff Hallman.

He promoted his players, always being helpful with the media.

Hallman gave an interview about his team on the day of his father's funeral.

He sacrificed many hours for his players.

Many times, he was affable.

He was always direct and honest.

And now he leaves with no complaints - except for maybe from those that would want him to stay.

Cary Osborne is The Signal's sports editor. He can be reached at cosborne@the-signal.com. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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