Photo by Paul Slater
An era is coming to an end at St. Anthony High School, where longtime athletic director Brian Walsh is stepping down to become the new AD at La Salle Prep. Walsh’s 16 year tenure with the Saints is by far the most successful era in the Saints’ 100 year history.
“It was time for a change for me personally,” said Walsh. “There’s a lot of change going on around the school right now and it seemed like probably the right time to do it. I’ve been there for a long time and as an alum it’s hard to let all that go, but it’s just the timing.”
Walsh’s entire family wore purple and white, and he grew up as the Saints football team’s ball boy. He’s been a coach, teacher, and administrator at his alma mater, doing everything from helping to built the Clark Field baseball stadium from scratch to coaching the Saints football team. While he first arrived at St. Anthony looking to start a long coaching career, he quickly found his calling as an administrator.
“I was doing both roles, coaching and serving as AD, and I started to feel like my leadership style and my ability to stay organized and on top of things was pulling me in that direction,” said Walsh. “My skills fit better in an administrative aspect, and I had to choose one or the other–I felt like I could have a greater impact on all of our programs.”
That impact has been outsized over Walsh’s 16 years, the longest tenure for any AD in school history. Under Walsh’s direction, the school has won eight CIF-SS championships, more than half of the 14 total in school history. There have been nine individual CIF-SS champions, where there had only been six in the previous 84 years. All of the coaches for the school’s eight titles over the last 16 years were hired by Walsh.
“It was an awesome run,” said Walsh. “I’ll be honest, when I took the job 16 years ago I wouldn’t have said I’d be there that long. The goal was to try and stop the downward spiral and get it headed in the right direction. Then the enrollment started to grow, we attracted some quality coaches and student-athletes, and you started to see everything come to fruition.”
The year everything peaked was 2016-17, when coach Alicia Lemau’u’s girls’ volleyball team won a CIF-SS title, then the football team won its first championship since 1948, and then the school year ended with a softball championship.
“That year in general was a real high point, that was the golden year,” said Walsh.
Coaches have often expressed their admiration for Walsh and his work ethic.
“He’s brought tradition back to the school,” Lemau’u said. “The passion he has for St. Anthony makes everyone around him work harder. He makes it to every home game, no matter the sport. He supports the whole school and every school event.”
Walsh said he shares a bond with all the coaches he worked with, but cites the girls’ basketball CIF-SS title under James Anderson in 2010 as a real turning point for the Saints’ program.
“He was my first major hire, and then after I stepped down from coaching my first hires were Mario Morales (football) and Alicia, they’ve been there doing great ever since,” said Walsh. “Over the last five years I’ve developed a special bond with coach Cav, who’s built our boys’ basketball program into a Division 1 level. He’s spent five years carrying out the exact vision he told me about when we first sat down.”
Even though the future is bright for Walsh, he admitted there won’t ever be another stop quite like St. Anthony.
“It’s special when you work at a place where you went to school, where your family went to school,” he said. “The connection to the other alums and people I went to school with or my parents went to school with. That sense of pride is something special.”