Just days after St. Ignatius girls basketball coach Mike Mulkerrins’ dismissal was confirmed, boys head coach Rob Marcaletti announced he would be stepping down from his post after six seasons, though he’ll remain in his role as assistant athletic director.
“After considering a variety of factors and looking at everything as a whole, I’ve decided to step down,” the 41-year-old father of three said. “There’s not one thing that led to this decision, but having the time to consider where I’m at, I feel it’s best for me and for the family.”
A 1996 St. Ignatius graduate, Marcaletti had been on staff at his alma mater since 2001, where he was able to work with the freshman and junior varsity teams under Don Lippi, who coached him during his high school days. He became a varsity assistant under Tim Reardon in 2007, and when Reardon became alumni director in September 2014, Marcaletti took over as head coach on an interim basis. That first season came with an inexperienced roster and minimal time to prepare, and the Wildcats went 10-15 (4-10 in West Catholic Athletic League play). He formally became the full-time head coach following the season and continued to lead the program for another five years, amassing a 83-59 record (36-34 WCAL).
Four of Marcaletti’s five full seasons culminated in an appearance in the CIF State Tournament, highlighted by a 2017 run that ended in the NorCal semifinals with a loss to eventual state champion Mission in a game that will be remembered for generations as one of the biggest nights in San Francisco basketball in decades. The 2017-18 season saw the Wildcats beat Serra in the Jungle Game for just the second time in 17 years, and it marked the second of three straight years in which the program played in the CCS Open Division. That string ended in the recently concluded 2019-20 campaign, but SI won the Division III title over rival Sacred Heart Cathedral, the first section title the program had won since 2014.
While team success was, of course, central to Marcaletti’s philosophy, he didn’t care about any individual honors that would be bestowed upon him.
“I had such a great experience as a player at SI, and I want the kids to be able to look back on their time in high school as a great experience,” he said. “That’s what matters to me. More than 20 years after I graduated, I’m still using expressions from Don Lippi, whether it’s coaching or with my kids at home. He taught me to approach life with a chip on your shoulder, tremendous enthusiasm and a refuse to lose mentality.”
One of the highlights of Marcaletti’s playing days at St. Ignatius came during his senior season in 1996, when his team defeated a Balboa squad led by stars Marquette Alexander and Winters Patterson before a sold-out gathering at Kezar Pavilion. That 2017 loss to Mission drew comparisons to that Balboa game in terms of atmosphere, and for the most part, the Wildcats maintained their stake among the teams at the forefront of San Francisco basketball. Yes, they were swept by Riordan this year, but Marcaletti’s teams had won nine of 10 prior meetings with the Crusaders, including both in the interim year, with a double-overtime thriller at the Crusader Forum. His teams also had tremendous success in the Bruce-Mahoney Game against SHC, winning four straight years before falling at the Cow Palace in January. They did win the remaining two meetings with the Fightin’ Irish this year, including the section title game, and even with two losses in the rivalry during the interim year, Marcaletti’s teams went 8-5 overall against their neighbors from Ellis Street.
Aside from dominating San Francisco, the most visible manner in which Marcaletti embodied Lippi’s coaching came in the form of toughness. He instituted rigorous weight training programs with the help of John Murray, who had worked with the Golden State Warriors during the Don Nelson era, and helped the SI team shed any perceptions of being soft.
“I always said five pounds of muscle is worth 20 pounds of confidence,” Marcaletti commented. “We changed the level of toughness with that Brandon Beckman, Matt Redmond, Darrion Trammell group.”
Beckman, Redmond and Trammell all started for three years under Marcaletti, a stretch in which the Wildcats went 58-28, though they didn’t win any league or section titles in that stretch. In fact, St. Ignatius last won a share of the league crown in 2004 and hasn’t won an outright championship since 1999. The closest they came under Marcaletti was in the 2016-17 season, when the three starters were juniors, SI finished second in the WCAL to Bellarmine and won a CCS Open Division Quarterfinal game for the first, and to this point, only, time in program history.
Remaining in the role of assistant athletic director, a post he’s held since 2011, will allow Marcaletti to not only remain connected to his alma mater but spread out his role across multiple sports. He certainly won’t be detached from the basketball program, which not only saw his influence create tougher teams on the court but also a well-rounded program off of it. Over each of the past three summers, the team played in international tournaments, going on cultural immersion trips to Taiwan and Argentina. Other experiences players got to enjoy under Marcaletti included camps with NBA coaches Mario Elie and Phil Handy, working with Stephen and Dell Curry, weekend retreats and early season tournaments in Dallas and Spokane. The Dallas trip included tours of Dallas Mavericks facilities and matchups with elite competition at Dallas Jesuit’s Knights of Columbus Tournament, while the trip to Spokane this past year took the Wildcats to the Fitz Tournament and included a visit to Gonzaga. As fellow Jesuit schools, the connection between SI and Gonzaga is a strong one, with two team managers under Marcaletti, Adam Davidoff and Miguel Angala, going on to work for Mark Few and the Bulldogs. A third manager, Owen Jennings, now works for Greg Gard’s team at Wisconsin.
While he’s going to remain in an administrative role, it’s unlikely that Marcaletti will play much of a part in the search for the boys basketball program’s third head coach in 10 years. That will mainly be left to athletic director John Mulkerrins, brother of the now former girls basketball coach, and Jeff Glosser, the Assistant Principal for Student Affairs.
Glosser, a 1983 graduate of the school, is in his first year in the role after previously working at Brophy Prep in Phoenix, and since his arrival, a wave of changes have been made across the board. Some of those changes, such as increased student support at football games, were embraced with open arms across the community, but the coaching changes unsurprisingly ruffled a few feathers, particularly among longtime members of the SI community who had established close relations with the old guard.
It will take a few years to determine how coaching changes will pay off, but it is known that whoever succeeds Marcaletti as boys basketball head coach will have a solid cast of players to work with. The Wildcats may have only gone 12-17 in the 2019-20 season, but they started a freshman at point guard in King-Jhsanni Wilhite and a pair of sophomores, Rory Kenneally and GC Toledo Rivera. A third sophomore, Ryan Conroy, got significant minutes off the bench, and at the end of the season, 6-foot-7 freshman John Squire was called up from a JV team that went 11-3 in WCAL play, finishing second to Bellarmine.