Cambrian: Sports

Tim May: 11 years of hard court coaching at Coast Union

Coast Union High School boys basketball Coach Tim May.
Coast Union High School boys basketball Coach Tim May. Special to The Cambrian

A reporter interviewing Tim May in his Coast Union classroom after school — with no knowledge of his skills or duties beyond Room 404 — could deduce by glancing around the room and asking questions that this is a conscientious, capable professional educator who teaches six English Literature classes daily.

While those assumptions prove true, what would not be obvious is that May is also a successful boys basketball coach, whose varsity teams the past three years have a 33-3 record in the Coast Valley League.

Meantime on an idyllic, blue-sky winter’s day, Wednesday, Jan. 22, May, in his 11th year coaching the Broncos, explained that he had no inkling of becoming a coach when he played basketball here in the 1990s. “I really wanted to be a broadcaster – that was what I went to college initially for.

“But after I graduated from Chico State I came to the realization that I really like being around basketball, and that led to my being a coach. And after a year of coaching I realized that I would have job security as a high school coach if I were a teacher.”

So May then spent two years achieving his teaching credential. Soon thereafter he realized, “I really liked teaching. So, those two positives worked together,” to build the career he now excels in.

His father was an English professor at Cal Poly so he basically transitioned into that proverbial chip off the old block.

If a player approached him indicating he might like to coach one day, what would May advise? “I would ask him what he wanted to offer to a team. ‘What strengths do you have that would help you be a coach? Find out what those are. That way you know walking in what you can provide for a team.

“Your weaknesses will show up on the first day,” May added, with laughter. “You’re not going to know it all, and that’s okay. Learning on the job is part of the process.”

Can you take a good athlete who has played other sports and make him a quality basketball player? “In terms of understanding the game, it would be difficult,” May made clear. He can teach any good athlete how to play defense and rebound, it’s just that learning the “nuances” of the game, May emphasized, “that takes time.”

One of the realities of a high school coach is the annual player turnover due to graduation. May has four seniors (Quinten Raethke, Angel Avina, Alan Hernandez and Logan Brandt) who have played varsity since their sophomore year — but will be gone next season.

How does May prepare his underclassmen for next season when his talented and experienced varsity players will depart?

He wants underclassmen to ask, “‘What can I do as a player to improve myself?’” Moreover, May expects all players to work on improving “one skill set” during the summer months.

“I try to focus on one thing with each individual: what can you do this summer to improve yourself, and thus help the team?” Plus, he adds, “they have to play a lot of games.”

Do his players typically buy into May’s summer improvement programs? “Most likely,” the coach chuckles.

Indeed, the laughter, smiles and candor during the interview provided ample evidence that May has long since found his groove and that he thoroughly enjoys his dual responsibilities at Coast.

Meanwhile, how is his approach to coaching games different from when he launched his career 11 years ago? He promptly answered with a grin followed by laughter, “I’m a lot more mellow now.

“I wanted to win every game,” he said, quickly adding that his passion to win “hasn’t changed. My perspective has changed, though. In my initial years it was, ‘Here’s what we have, here’s how we’re going to run this.’ Today I’m more focused on each player’s skill set.

“Back then in locker rooms I was a bit vocal. In pregames I was vocal and at half time I was vocal. I have changed into a more business-like coach today.”

Today, May approaches half time reflectively: “I focus on what’s working and what’s not working; and after games I go over what went well and what we can improve on.”

Some things never change for a high school coach. “I’ve tried for 11 years to get teenage players to drink water, but water to them is a foreign object,” he smiles, as he pours himself another tall glass from a large pitcher he keeps on his front desk.

What has changed for coach May was his plan to go into broadcasting and how it transitioned into his current career. On second thought, he does have something of a broadcast gig each fall. There he is in booth at Bronco football games, projecting his voice over the public address system with an energetic tone similar to what his players hear during his vigorous basketball practice sessions.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune