Hart Girls Basketball Coach Dave Munroe Set to Retire After 18 Years with Indians
March, 2007 - Issue #29
Dave Munroe
Dave Munroe
Dave Munroe's career in coaching has been marked by two constants.

The first is family. The second is winning.

When he was a boy, he followed his dad, Phil, the first baseball coach at San Fernando Valley State College (Cal-State Northridge) from game to game.

When he turned 21, he followed his uncle, Jerry Williams, who coached the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles from 1969-71, to training camp.

Munroe's pursuit of competition led him next to Crespi High, where he coached boys basketball for five years, becoming the head varsity coach in his final year.

In the late '70s he came to Hart, where he taught health and driver's education, and began a 10-year stint coaching the boys junior varsity basketball team.

In 1989, he became the head varsity girls coach.

It was the beginning of a storied run for Munroe and the Lady Indians - an 18-year ride that has included five CIF-Southern Section title-game appearances and a pair of championships.

He refers to his two titles as "bookends" because the first came in year one of his tenure and the second came last year. But Hart will challenge for one more in this, Munroe's final season.

It would be a fitting end for a coach who has won or shared the Foothill League crown 14 times in 17 tries, with a 15th all-but sewn up.

His record at Hart stood at 373-122 heading into February. Under Munroe, the Indians have never missed the playoffs.

Monroe's wife, Jan, has been present for all but a handful of his near-500 games at Hart. You can find her at the scorer's table, tracking everything from fouls to free throws, shots to steals.

"Jan's a big part of the program," he says. "She's been a great support. You have to have a wife like that or you probably wouldn't stay in coaching as long as I have."

There was even a time when you'd find Munroe's daughter Jenny on the Indian bench, though not as a player. Like her dad, she preferred to coach. "When she was 7 or 8 she'd be on the end of the bench yelling, 'Box out!'" Munroe says.

With his wife and daughter close at hand, Munroe guided the Indians to a 25-5 record in that first season, earning the program's first-ever section title with a 49-45 upset of unbeaten Buena High. It was a team that had already beaten Hart by 18 points.

"Nobody gave us a chance," Munroe says. "But we came up with a different defense."

The win came against legendary coach Joe Vaughn, the winningest basketball coach in California history.

"Beating (Joe) in that game was special. We're good friends and I have a lot of respect for him," Munroe says. "He's gotten the best of the Hart teams over the years."

Munroe's lone regret from that first title run is that Jenny missed the post-game team picture. A meticulous equipment manager, she was folding towels.

"When the picture came out Jenny asked, 'Dad, where am I?'" Munroe says. "I felt really bad. Everyone else was in that picture. She should have been there."

"You have to understand that winning it all is hard," Munroe says. "You have to be good, but you have to have some luck, too. I told Jan after that first one, 'Enjoy this because it might not happen again.'"

The years that followed brought regular-season wins in bunches. But his teams failed to duplicate the playoff success the program enjoyed that first season. From 1991-2001, his Indians lost 10 straight first-round playoff games.

"I had my NUMBER ONE FAN on the sideline. That support built me up as an individual,"
~ Jenny Munroe
But Munroe's life didn't revolve solely around Hart basketball. Neither did his coaching responsibilities. Athletics is, after all, a Munroe family tradition. With a youngster in the house, it was time to pass it on.

"Dad coached every single team I was on, from t-ball when I was 5 on," Jenny Munroe says. "That's an amazing thing for a father to do." "He wouldn't have had it any other way," Jan Munroe says. "If you put your two fingers together, that's how close Dave and Jenny are. Athletics has a lot to do with that."

Says Jenny: "I had my number one fan on the sideline. That support built me up as an individual."

By the time Jenny reached high school, tennis was her sport. She was playing in regional and national tournaments and climbing the USTA Junior's national top-100 rankings.

After graduating in 2000, she flew east to play for the University of Massachusetts.

Back at Hart, meanwhile, Dave Munroe was about to enter the most successful stage of his coaching career.

Superstar-to-be Ashlee Trebilcock enrolled at Hart in 2001, ushering in an era that would see Munroe's Indians play in three straight CIF championship games.

Each of those title tries ended in defeat at the hands of rival San Clemente, the last of them in a game that saw Hart storm back and seize control in the second half.

But a last-second 3-point attempt from Trebilcock missed the mark in a 56-53 loss.

Munroe calls the game his most disappointing loss.

"It just wasn't meant to be," Munroe says. "We had all the momentum, but they just couldn't miss in that fourth quarter."

Munroe's Indians bowed out in the second round of the playoffs the following season, which was Trebilcock's last at Hart. The loss was supposed to mark the disappointing end of a stretch of missed opportunities for Munroe's program. But it wasn't.

Losing Trebilcock didn't mean Munroe suddenly forgot how to coach.

"Some years he had superstars and some years he didn't," Jenny Munroe says. "But his teams were always prepared."

Saugus High girls coach Eric Olsson, who battled Munroe and Hart for Foothill League supremacy during the Trebilcock era, knew firsthand how responsible Munroe was for the Indians' success.

"I remember playing Hart for a share of the league title," Olsson says. "We played them tough in a loss on their court and now we had them at home. We had a great game plan to exploit our size advantage, but Dave put in a full-court press and totally took us out of it. He hadn't done that before. It was just a great move by him and they won that game. Dave's done a wonderful job there."

Munroe's former players say he was "tough, but fair." They call him "intense." They say he demanded a lot, but never more than he expected from himself.

"I respect him so much. You always knew that if you practiced hard, you'd get court time," says Taylor Lilley, who starred for Hart in 2005-06 and is now playing at the University of Oregon. "He's had so much success, you have to take everything he says to the fullest. And he's so intense. He would want to play in our games so bad, if he could. I love that."

Munroe likes to think of himself as a defense-first coach. He teaches his girls to hustle. He expects them to work hard.

"I want an effort from you and a good attitude," he says. "I want them to learn from their mistakes. I'm an intense coach because I want my players to be that way on the floor. There's no time to relax. If you want to relax, come sit on the bench."

It was with that same intensity that Munroe steered his team back to the CIF championship game last year against Canyon.

Jenny, newly married and teaching in Denver, flew in for the game. Dad held a spot for her next to him on the bench.

"I think I live and die with him sometimes. I'll still call him at halftime to get the score," Jenny says. "I got right on the internet to get my plane ticket. I didn't want to miss it."

After the Indians 54-37 win, Munroe gathered everyone for a post-game photo.

"Jenny's in that one," he says, the emotion catching in his throat. "She's in there."

Munroe turns 58 in July. By then, he and Jan plan to be in Stapleton, Colorado, a Denver suburb. Their house is waiting for them. Jenny and her husband, Zach Wilson, the head of amateur scouting for the Colorado Rockies, are there, too, along with his sister and his dad - just not Hart basketball.

"Deep down I think it's the competitiveness he's going to miss most of all," Jenny Munroe says. "We'll just have to find something else or him... or maybe just find another game."

The search may not take long. Jenny is going to coach basketball at the middle school where she teaches. This time, she's the one holding a spot open on the bench.
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