It took two years, but Sylmar High officials finally realized that a 6-foot-11 social studies teacher might make a good basketball coach.
Sylmar has hired Alan Shaw to replace Larry Link, who resigned last month as the basketball coach after two seasons. Sylmar posted a 12-33 record in that time, including a 1-21 mark last season.
Shaw, 40, has never coached a high school boys' varsity team but he has an extensive basketball background. He was a center and served as captain at Duke in the early 1970s for Coaches Bucky Waters and Hubie Brown. He then played professionally for five years in Europe before returning to the United States for a tryout with the Atlanta Hawks.
He failed to catch on in the National Basketball Assn. and embarked on a teaching career in New Jersey, where he also coached a freshman boys' team and a varsity girls' team for three seasons.
During his summer vacation in 1985, he returned to Europe for his last fling with professional basketball, as a member of the Washington Generals, who play dupes to the Harlem Globetrotters.
"It was interesting to get an inside look at the Globetrotters and the games were fun," Shaw said.
Shaw moved to Los Angeles in 1989 and worked for one semester at Poly High before he was transferred to Sylmar.
Shaw intends to approach his new coaching job as he would a teaching assignment.
"I don't have the image of myself as a coach," he said. "I consider myself an educator first and I take all my classes seriously. I'll take basketball that way too.
"I think basketball is a real important way to teach these boys things about themselves. I'm looking to developing young men."