Catching Up With: Tandy Gillis

Steve Virgen

Times in basketball have changed, but not for Tandy Gillis. He’s

from the old school and he won’t back down from putting his mentality

into today’s game.

Gillis, 62, who coached men’s basketball at Orange Coast College and

boys hoops at Corona del Mar High, still believes in teamwork, but the

modern era promotes the opposite, Gillis says.

His promotion of teamwork is a reason he’s still coaching as an

assistant at Irvine Valley College, though he’s actually retired.

Yet, the team concept, or the lack thereof, is what factored into his

decision into recently turning down the OCC men’s head coaching job or

any other head coaching position, for that matter.

“I didn’t want to be the head coach (at OCC),” Gillis said. “There’s

too many problems with players (in college basketball). I’ve been there

and done that. The way the game has gone, it’s not the way it used to be.

The players are all into themselves. It’s not as good as it used to be.”

Gillis is at IVC to destroy that mentality. He’s been an assistant’s

role for the past five years working with head coach Jerry Hernandez.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t start winning until Tandy got here,”

Hernandez said. “He’s one of my best friends. My thinking when I asked

him to be my assistant was, if I’m going to have success, why not get the

guy who won a state championship. Now that he’s retired, I get him all

the time. I get so excited.”

The teamwork concept also comes into play with Gillis and Hernandez.

When Gillis first came to IVC five years ago he worked with Bill

Mulligan. When Mulligan left he asked Gillis to take over, but for the

same reasons of today Gillis turned that down. Then he developed a

relationship with Hernandez.

“I wouldn’t be working if I didn’t like working with (Hernandez),”

Gillis said. “He does a good job and doesn’t bring in international kids.

I just like the way he does things. He’s very professional. He won’t put

up with (lazy) guys.”

The teamwork mentality is very important to Gillis, yet there’s

another reason, the main reason, he still coaches.

“I’m a basketball coach,” Gillis said. “I like to coach. I love

basketball. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t coach.”

He plays tennis, golf and lifts weights two to three times a week, but

at the end of the day his love always comes back to the squeaks of the

wooden floor, a crisp chest pass or the timeout huddle.

He owes most of that love, especially the love for coaching, to his

college basketball coach, Pete Newell, who guided the 1959 UC Berkeley national championship team Gillis played on as a forward.

"(Newell) has been a major influence in my life,” Gillis said. “I

still keep in touch with him. When I had my retirement party in April he

was there. He’s 85 and he’s still doing his basketball camp in in Hawaii.

He’s amazing.”

Gillis calls Newell “the best college coach that has ever been. It’s

not John Wooden.” And Gillis is not afraid to hold back any of his other


On the NBA -- “I can’t stand to watch the pros.”

On local high school hoops -- “There’s all these kids now playing on

private teams and those coaches have a bigger influence than their high

school coaches. Kids are able to move from high school to high school.

It’s just all a mess. These kids are paying attention to guys that don’t

know crap, especially guys in Orange County. Life is too short, I don’t

want to deal with jerks like that.”

On former Duke standout Shane Battier -- " It astounds me how Shane

Battier is treated. People talked about picking high school kids over

that guy. Are you kidding me? He’s a leader and an example. That’s

amazing to me.”

On what he hopes players attain from him -- “Knowledge of the game and

appreciation for the game. I hope that they learn how to play hard. As

far as I know basketball, it’s a five-man game. You have the NBA that’s

saying it’s one player. You have (Allen Iverson) and Kobe Bryant out

there doing their own thing. AI and Kobe should know (teamwork). That’s

the way I played it and that’s way it should be.”

On coaching -- “You have to treat the last guy like you treat the best

guy and that’s the way Pete did it. That’s another thing that has gone

out the door.”

One thing that remains consistent, since those days of ’59, is the

respect one and all have for Tandy Gillis.