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Hearlihy Jumping to Harvard-Westlake

Girls' basketball: Successful coach will leave Alemany High to lead its archrival.

May 04, 2000|DAVE DESMOND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

STUDIO CITY — In a stunning shift from one area girls' basketball power to another, Coach Melissa Hearlihy announced Wednesday she will leave Alemany High to join Mission League rival Harvard-Westlake.

Hearlihy, who guided Alemany to 11 league championships and three Southern Section titles, won 350 games in 15 seasons at the Mission Hills school.

Victories have been only part of the story for Hearlihy, a popular figure among area players and coaches who is recognized as one of the region's top female role models in any sport.

"She's a high-quality person who cares deeply about her players and we're lucky to be getting her," said Headmaster Thomas Hudnut of Harvard-Westlake.

Hearlihy, who will finish the school year at Alemany, won't begin coaching her new team until summer league.

Hearlihy replaces Brian Taylor, who won 100 games, three Mission League championships and one section title in four seasons.

Taylor, who played 10 seasons in the NBA, announced his resignation as coach last month. He will continue to work in Harvard-Westlake's admissions department.

Alemany players were informed of the decision during a lunchtime meeting on Wednesday.

Assistant Carlton Oliver is expected to join Hearlihy at Harvard-Westlake.

"It is terribly hard to leave those kids," said Hearlihy, who is expecting her second child in August. "But the decision became much broader and bigger. With the new family on the way, it was the right decision."

Hearlihy, who teaches physical education and serves as girls' athletic director at Alemany, will have a significantly lighter teaching load at Harvard-Westlake.

At Alemany, she built one of the Southland's perennial powers, piling up titles and high rankings despite competing the last six-plus seasons without an on-campus gymnasium.

Much of the school, including the gym, was condemned after the 1994 earthquake. Alemany's new gym is scheduled for completion midway through next season.

Hearlihy's announcement Wednesday left Alemany players reeling.

When Hearlihy finished telling her former team, one player asked if she was joking. When Hearlihy said she was not, the room fell silent.

"It's all happened so fast," said All-Valley forward Karina Siam, a junior. "I'm still in a state of shock. It's been a tough day."

Harvard-Westlake finished second to Alemany last season but advanced to the state playoffs for the third consecutive year.

All-Valley guards Brooke Porter and L'Tanya Robnett graduate from Harvard-Westlake, but freshmen Lyndsey Medders and Danielle Butte, and juniors Chantal Kazay and Erin Stepheson form a strong nucleus around which Hearlihy will build.

Juniors Siam and all-league forward Nyasha Bralock, as well as sophomore guard Kelly Beckler, are key returners for Alemany.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

BY THE NUMBERS

15: Seasons Melissa Hearlihy coached at Alemany High

350: Victories, including playoffs

12: 20-victory seasons

11: Mission League titles

3: Southern Section titles

1: State championship appearance

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