The Palo Alto High School athletic program experienced a dramatic overhaul during the offseason, introducing a new football coach and two cross-country coaches to lead their respective teams. The leadership changes will undoubtedly change the mentality of both the football and cross-country programs.
Paly football has experienced multiple disappointing seasons in recent years. In 2014 and 2015, they finished with overall records of 3-8 and 5-7, respectively. However, the newly appointed head coach, Danny Sullivan, hopes to change the direction of the football program.
Coach Sullivan comes from a background of personal success within the sport. He was the starting quarterback at Los Gatos High School and received a scholarship to play Division I football at Arizona State University (ASU). He started during his senior year at ASU and finished his Pac-12 career with 13 touchdowns. Sullivan hopes to translate his playing experience into his coaching at Paly.
After college, Coach Sullivan struggled with figuring out how to continue his involvement with football in the future.
“My high school coach was still coaching and asked if I wanted to help out with the team at Los Gatos,” Sullivan said. “I decided to help out with the team, and I fell in love with it. So I spent six years coaching the quarterbacks and calling the offense at Los Gatos.”
After coaching the quarterbacks and calling the offense at Los Gatos, the opportunity to coach at Paly arose.
“[Jake] Halas, [the former Paly head coach], obviously decided not to coach anymore, and he’s still teaching here,” Sullivan said. “It was about a month-long process of figuring out if I was going to be hired or not, and I got the job and things have been going great.”
Sullivan has high expectations, both on and off the field, for himself and for his players.
“I think everyone’s goal in their mind is to win as many games as possible, and that’s always a thing you want to do, but I think a challenge for myself and our coaching staff along with some of these kids is trying to make sure that they understand how important they are towards being better in society, and how they act and go about their business outside the school walls,” Sullivan said. “We want them to be better men within their families and in their hometown, and if we win a bunch of games because of it, then that’s a bonus.”
Having fun while playing football is ultimately the most important part of Coach Sullivan’s philosophy when it comes to coaching football.
“One of the things we want to do overall is challenge the guys to do something that they are not used to doing,” Sullivan said. “And also we want guys to enjoy playing football.”
Football is not the only sports program that has experienced major change during the offseason. For the last few years, the cross-country program experienced major success under former coach Kelsey Feeley. However, after Feeley accepted an offer as a full-time teaching assistant at a local private school, the cross-country team has found Michael Davidson and Mike Granville, who will be head coach and assistant coach, respectively.
Davidson ran competitively all from fourth grade through college. He was a Division I scholarship athlete and won two high school state championship titles for the 400-meter dash.
Coach Davidson also ran cross-country during his high school years. At the University of Arizona, he ran the 400-meter dash, 4×100-meter and 400 meter relay.
“[The] biggest thing is making sure that the kids are still driving forward,” Davidson said. “If they’re being successful in how they are competing, what they are capable of doing and they are strengthening their confidence in themselves [then my job as a coach is successful]. As far as [the future of] the program, we hope to win SCVALs and qualify for States.”
Davidson specializes in sprint training, and may be coaching track and field in addition to cross country at Paly this year.
“I’ve been coaching for about the past 11 years, both club and high school,” Davidson said. “I spent the last couple of years at Saint Francis High School. And I knew the coach over here, Coach Kelsey, and she asked me if I was available for the job here at Palo Alto High School.”
Davidson wants to push everyone on the team to compete at the best of their abilities, which this will certainly lead to success for the whole program.
Mike Granville has seen great success in his impressive running career. He remains the current national high school record holder for the 800-meter race — his time in this event is a stunning 1:46.45. Like Davidson, he ran for a Division I school, the University of California, Los Angeles.
“I ran the 800-meters at UCLA,” Granville said. “I was a part of the Distance Medley Relay team that won a [National Collegiate Athletic Association] NCAA championship where I ran the 800-meter leg. I also ran the 400-meter dash [individual event] and the 4×400-meter where we won the NCAA championship in 1999. I am a two-time NCAA champion, and the 400-meter dash PAC-12 champion.”
Granville ran into the athletic director at Castilleja, a local private girls’ school in Palo Alto. When the coaching job at Paly became available, he was referred to Paly’s athletic director Kathi Bowers.
Both coaches are hoping to aid in making it to the state championship for the cross-country program. They are also excited for the future in the program, and hope the program can continue its history of excellence.