By Zach Cavanagh
Former San Clemente High School girls basketball coach Mary Mulligan-Crapo was inducted into the CIF-Southern Section Hall of Fame at a luncheon at The Grand Conference Center in Long Beach on Wednesday, Oct. 17.
Mulligan-Crapo was one of 15 coaches and educators inducted as the Class of 2018, including other Coast View Conference inductees in former Mission Viejo football coach Bob Johnson, former Laguna Hills wrestling coach Cliff Jarmie and former El Toro water polo coach Don Stoll.
“This is definitely the highest honor a high school coach can achieve,” Mulligan-Crapo said. “When I got the got the call that they had awarded me this, I was really thrilled. Really appreciative and grateful for that honor.”
Mulligan-Crapo was presented by CIF-SS assistant commissioner Rainer Wulf, who was a classmate of Mulligan-Crapo’s at UC Irvine. Wulf listed off all of Mulligan-Crapo’s Hall of Fame credentials.
She posted a 500-211 record overall, which is good for ninth in CIF-SS history and makes her the winningest female girls basketball coach in Orange County history. Her teams won 13 league championships, including 12 in a row from 1997-2009, and five CIF-SS championships and made eight CIF State Championship appearances.
Mulligan-Crapo, who was joined at her table by husband Steve Crapo, daughter Tori Mulligan, San Clemente High School athletic director John Hamro and SCHS principal Chris Carter, covered all aspects of her career and basketball life in her speech.
Two highlights of the speech were anecdotes that got laughs from the assembled guests.
The first was Mulligan-Crapo talking about the culture of high school girls basketball coaching when she began coaching as only the second female coach in Orange County at the time.
“It was interesting being a female and not having any other females coaching. So it started out kind of easy,” Mulligan-Crapo said. “All the girls basketball coaches were assistant football coaches, and they were just doing it to get on campus and get a job. What I would do in the first quarter is I would throw a trap on them, and I’d watch what they did. If they didn’t adjust, they’d have to call a timeout. Then my girls would come in, and I’d say, ‘you guys, all of our stuff is going to work because this guy doesn’t know what he’s doing.’”
The second was Mulligan-Crapo reflecting back on the moments of her career. She said she saw the good moments, but it was the worst moments that stuck around longer.
“About three years ago, I was driving down the toll road, and I got pulled over. Sirens are going, and I got pulled over,” Mulligan-Crapo said. “The guy’s like, ‘I’ve been behind you for two minutes and you’re going 90 miles an hour. I thought we were doing a car chase.’ And I said, ‘no, I was thinking about this game I lost when I had 17 seconds and a seven-point lead.’ It’s like every detail was going in my head. I was just completely remembering this moment. This is five years after I stopped going. Just shows its’s one of those things that sticks with you all of your life.”
Mulligan-Crapo revealed later in the ceremony that she still received a ticket for the incident.
After her high school career at San Clemente, where she was the 1981 county female player of the year and a collegiate career at UC Irvine, Mulligan-Crapo took over the Triton program at 22 years old in 1986 and coached the girls basketball team for 25 years.
“It was really bizarre,” Mulligan-Crapo said. “The year before I took over, they had only won one game the whole season. They had had four coaches in the four years that I was gone. It was chaos when I got there. That first year was really difficult, but they were starved for anyone who cared. I did care, and I did have passion.”
Two screens on either side of the stage at the luncheon played a slideshow with photos of the inductees. The photo for Mulligan-Crapo was the celebration after winning the 2007 CIF-SS championship, which she called her proudest moment.
“We won that championship with homegrown San Clemente girls,” Mulligan-Crapo said, “which back then was a lot because everyone was starting to move and transfer. You could win a championship if you just got three girls to come to your school or something. It was a wild game that came down to the last eight seconds.”
Mulligan-Crapo recalled the details of those final seconds where San Clemente took the lead and seemingly won the game, so much so that the trophy table was placed on the court and the Tritons were handed their t-shirts. However, two seconds remained on the clock, but San Clemente survived a clean shot for the win.
Twenty-eight of Mulligan-Crapo’s former players went on to play in college.
Along with seeing the gym packed for a girls sport during their run of success, one of the things that sticks with Mulligan-Crapo is the relationships with her former players.
“It makes it all worth is when I see a lot of my athletes being successful in their lives,” Mulligan-Crapo said. “Those relationships with the girls and just seeing how much their lives are progressing, and I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from them. That means a lot to me.”
Mulligan-Crapo was named the CIF-SS coach of the year three times and league coach of the year 12 times. She was inducted into the Southern California Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2012 and the San Clemente Sports Hall of Fame as an inaugural member in 2013.
Mulligan-Crapo continues to teach math at San Clemente High School.