The North Coast Section filled its vacancy for assistant commissioner this week by hiring one of the longest-tenured and most well-respected athletic directors in the region.
Now-former Heritage High athletic director Pat Cruickshank had led the Patriots' athletic program since the day the school opened, having served 14 years in the same capacity for the Brentwood campus. He was also an athletic director for four years at San Leandro High. During that time, Cruickshank has been widely recognized for his work both as an athletic director and as a boys' basketball coach, holding both roles in a dual capacity throughout both tenures.
The 2014-2015 North Coast Section Athletic Director of the Year has only seen the athletic programs at Heritage continue to flourish under his leadership. In the 2017-2018 school year, the Patriots captured 16 Bay Valley Athletic League titles, and his basketball program capped things by winning its first-ever NCS Division I championship. For his efforts this past winter, Cruickshank was also named the Prep2Prep NCS Coach of the Year, and he has twice been named the BVAL Winter Sports Coach of the Year.
His ability to thrive in both roles did not go unnoticed by the section office.
"Certainly, I am excited to work with Pat, someone who I have greatly admired as a school teacher, coach, and athletic director," said NCS commissioner Gil Lemmon. "He brings a wealth of knowledge to the position of assistant commissioner, and no doubt will add a fresh school perspective to our section office."
During his 14 years at Heritage, Cruickshank not only saw the athletic program become the premier unit in the BVAL, but developed an elite basketball program. During the 2017 season, the Patriots hit the 200-win mark as a program, and this year marked a personal milestone for Cruickshank, who won his 300th game as a head coach in late December. He finished the season, and now apparently his coaching tenure, with 319 career victories, including his coaching stints at San Leandro and Liberty, where he served for two years while Heritage was under construction. He has also been active in interscholastic athletics dating back to 1984.
"Leaving Heritage was the toughest part of this decision. I have seen it grow from literally a pile of dirt into one of the best comprehensive high school anywhere," Cruickshank said. "The daily interaction with those kids in the classroom, on the fields of play, and on the hardwood will be what I miss the most."
Now, the veteran teacher, coach, and athletic administrator fills the vacancy created when Karen Smith announced her resignation from the associate commissioner position in the 180-member school section. The NCS filled Smith's void by promoting Bri Niemi from assistant commissioner to associate commissioner, which created the opening for a new assistant commissioner. The opportunity stood out to Cruickshank as a new and fresh way to impact student-athletes, with a more broad scope. He has previously served on the NCS eligibility committee, and is a National Interscholastic Athletic Administrator Association (NIAAA) Certified Athletic Administrator.
"I am excited for a different type of challenge," Cruickshank added. "It's exciting to work with people for whom I have so much respect, while also continuing to make athletics a memorable experience for our student-athletes, just on a much larger scale."
Cruickshank will be helping the Patriots transition to just their second-ever athletic director through the month of July, before leaving for his new post in the section office. Obviously, one of the biggest holes that his replacement will need to fill will be that of the head boys' basketball coach position.