In his two years as a part-time coach at the Academy of the Holy Cross, Bill Sheahan has given the Kensington girls school a nationally recognized basketball program. But Sheahan, an insurance agent, had a different view of things: "I feel I get a lot more out of it than I give."
Sheahan compiled a 54-4 record in his first two seasons at Holy Cross, 4900 Strathmore Ave.
"I get lots of satisfaction out of motivating young people into turning out well, out of motivating someone to excellence. I have to work as hard with the last girl on my team as the first," he said.
The girls appreciate his efforts.
"He's the best coach. We look up to him so much," said Chrissy Reese, a 6-foot-1 junior center who will start for Sheahan for the third year. "He tries so hard to get to know everybody individually. He puts such hard work into it. Everything he says he backs up with reasons. He doesn't just throw things at us without explaining them."
Sheahan says he patterns himself after Morgan Wootten, the successful coach at De Math High School in Hyattsville, who annually fields winning teams and sends all his seniors away with college scholarships. The Holy Cross mentor copies Wooten's style with a low-key aproach, prefering to praise a girl for a good play rather than yelling at her for a mistake.
Sheahan said anybody could have won games with his first two teams at Holy Cross. From last year's squad, which compiled a 29-1 record to earn top ranking in the Washington Metropolitan area, three girls earned full college scholarships.Cathy Hanrahan, who was named to Parade's All-American third team and the Washington Post's All-Metropolitan first team, and Kathy Railey are now playing for James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. Sharon Hodges, who made the Post's All-Met first team for two straight years, has a full scholarships Catholic Girls Basketball League and the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials tournament at Parkdale High School in Riverdale. The Tartans did not lose until their final game, 57-55, to St. Maria Goretti of Philadelphia, ranked third nationally in one poll, in the championship match of the Big Brothers Tournament at Catholic University.
If Sheahan needs to prove anything, he can do it this year with only two returning starters from a year ago. The Tartans have already rolled to four early victories, scoring an average of 78.3 points per game while allowing but 26.
He touts Reese, a second team All-Met who averaged a team-leading 12.3 points a game as well as 8.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists, as a certain repeat. All-Met choice. Also back is 5-foot-10 junior forward Lori Marsden, who averaged 11.9 points a game last season after earning a starting spot midway through last season.
Other key players from last year's squad who should step into starting roles are Annette Allor, a 5-foot-5 senior guard who averaged 4.7 points a game, and Colleen McShalley, a 5-foot-7 point guard who chipped in 4.2 points.
Gone from last year is the team's superior height.Where the 1976 starting lineup averaged 5-foot-10, this year the Tartans will have to rely more on quickness. Although the scoring totals don't seem impressive, they are indicative of the Tartans' style and the ease with which they rolled through last year's schedule.
"Teamwork, total unselfishness, was really evident last year," said Sheahan, who lives at 1127 Tiffany Rd. in Silver Spring. "What I do is build a system which isn't dependent on one person, so if for some reason that person is not playing the team doesn't feel a letdown."
Sheahan also benched his regulars for the second half in most games after Holy Cross had built one of its usual 30-point margins.
Sheahan came to Holy Cross after 19 years of coaching several sports in the Catholic Youth Organization and Boys Club programs. His daughter Debbie, 18, talked him into applying for the job at Holy Cross where she played for his first two years.
While Shehan and his girls discount any advantages of his many years of coaching boys, the team's organization is good. It employs many drills commonly found in boys' team practices and if the coach is detained for some reason, the girls lcan start their warmups without him.
There are questions asked when Sheahan issues what sound like complicated instructions for a practice scrimmage. When the coach orders, "Both teams are running the 45. Twenty-two on defense, and release two on the break," the girls quickly obey, using klthe team's system in which each player on the floor has a number.
Shehan extends himself beyond the realm of coach. He takes pride in the girls' off-the-court achievement and offers his advice when they ask it. He plans to repeat last year's retreat to Maryland's eastern shore where the chaperoned team discussed anything except basketball.
"He just puts in so much time and effort," said Marsden. "He has a special relationship with all the girls - he cares about all the girls. Everybody wants to go out and play hard for him."
Despite the girls' respect and his impressive record, Sheahan refuses to admit he's doing anything special. "I don't view myself as anybody unique," he said. "There's a lot of people doing the same thing. I think anybody working with kids is doing a great job.