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East Bay basketball team winning for coach in hospice care

San Ramon Valley forward Seamus Deely (15) sizes up Oakland forward James Fitzgerald during a non-league basketball game in Danville on Jan. 5, 2023. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

There’s an overwhelmingly joyous and positive aura around San Ramon Valley’s basketball team.

The Wolves showcase selfless ball movement and physical defense. The 12 players on the bench roar with approval every time one of their five teammates on the floor draws a charge. In an age where players transfer at a moment’s notice, looking to improve their own personal stock, San Ramon Valley plays a pure brand of team basketball.

They’re not just doing it for the players in uniform. Their biggest motivation of all is assistant coach Hans de Lannoy, who entered hospice care over Christmas weekend.

The 70-year-old de Lannoy was named “Mr. San Ramon Valley” in 2002. He’s coached both the boys and girls teams at San Ramon Valley, and prior stops on his coaching journey include stints at California, Cubberley, Dublin and Gunn. At Cubberley, his now-defunct alma mater in Palo Alto, he simultaneously coached the girls varsity, girls junior varsity and boys junior varsity teams in the 1972-73 season. He has 521 wins as a head coach and led SRV’s girls team to the 2006 North Coast Section (NCS) Division I Championship. While his role on the bench has been limited by his condition, he’s in his fifth season as an assistant on Brian Botteen’s staff. He had returned to SRV for the 2017-18 season to serve as an assistant coach on the junior varsity team, then moved up to the varsity ranks the next year.

“He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever played for,” said point guard Parker McClaughry, who made 15 of 18 free throws to help close out Thursday’s win over Oakland. “He’s the nicest guy. He’d do anything for us, so now it’s our turn to give back to him. We’re trying to make him smile.”

De Lannoy’s legacy goes far beyond the on-court accolades. As a fixture in the Danville community and at SRV, de Lannoy is renowned for impacting countless students’ lives with his relentless positivity.

“I love Hans! Great guy and great teacher,” said Lick-Wilmerding head coach Eliot Smith, whose children attended San Ramon Valley. “Hans was the P.E. teacher for my kids. He would always pump up the kids at pep rallies.”

The "Home of Champions" sign in San Ramon Valley's gym was inspired by longtime coach Hans de Lannoy. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

The “Home of Champions” slogan, which can be seen on the walls in SRV’s gym, stems from some of de Lannoy’s famous speeches. His final rally speech, from fall of 2013, can be seen in full on YouTube.

In 2018, de Lannoy was initially diagnosed with kidney cancer, which spread to his lungs. His induction into San Ramon Valley’s Hall of Fame was fast-tracked in response, culminating in a ceremony in February 2019 before a game against crosstown rival Monte Vista that was attended by hundreds of his former players. He underwent immunotherapy over the following year and entered remission, but the cancer returned in late 2022, this time rapidly spreading to his brain.

Even with his condition, de Lannoy took it upon himself to attend as many practices and games as possible, including two of the three contests at the Riordan Crusader Classic in early December.

“It was great to see him and Coach (Ron) Isola reminiscing,” Riordan head coach Joey Curtin said.

De Lannoy’s condition turned for the worse on Dec. 15, when he collapsed at his home and was taken to the hospital. Even that hasn’t stopped him from staying involved with the team. Before the Wolves traveled to The Classic at Damien on Dec. 26, they stopped at de Lannoy’s house for one of his famous pump-up speeches.

The San Ramon Valley Wolves visited assistant coach Hans de Lannoy at his home on Dec. 26, 2022. | Courtesy Hans de Lannoy/Facebook

The trip to Southern California didn’t entirely go as planned. Southwest Airlines’ cancellations forced the Wolves, who were awaiting their flight at San Jose International Airport, to jump in cars and make the trek down Interstate 5. Upon arrival, they defeated Rancho Cucamonga, Redondo Union, Roosevelt-Eastvale and Ironwood-Arizona to win the Gold Division, the second-highest bracket of the tournament’s seven divisions.

Redondo Union and Roosevelt each won state championships in the prior decade, before the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) switched to a “competitive equity” format. Roosevelt and Ironwood each defeated Sacramento power Jesuit in the tournament, with Roosevelt handing the Marauders a 28-point beatdown a day after the loss to SRV. Both Rancho Cucamonga and Roosevelt are ranked in California’s top 100, according to MaxPreps. Redondo Union, the lowest-ranked of the Wolves’ three in-state opponents, is currently ranked 141st in the state.

“That was right up there with winning a state championship,” said Botteen, who led the Wolves to a CIF Division I title in 2015 over Chino Hills, a team that featured Lonzo and LiAngelo Ball.

The Wolves lost 6-foot-7 junior Will Ambidge to an ankle injury three minutes into the first game at Damien, which they won by two. In the semifinal against Redondo Union, they trailed by six with two minutes left, but Isaak knocked down the game-winning 3-pointer. After each game, the coaches and players called de Lannoy from the locker room.

“We won that for him,” Isaak said.

In line with his ever-optimistic outlook, de Lannoy's Facebook page, which sits within a few of the maximum 5,000 possible friends, has little mention of his current condition, save for a link to a GoFundMe page. Most of his posts are about SRV’s current season, encouraging fans to come out to the games.

San Ramon Valley guard Matthew Diekmann (5) tries to shoot a 3-pointer over Oakland forward Anthony Lacy during a non-league basketball game in Danville on Jan. 5, 2023. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

De Lannoy had planned to attend Thursday’s 89-79 win over Oakland, but opted to stay home after coming down with a cough. The coaches made the now-customary postgame phone call, though they did it from outside the gym instead of from the home locker room, where phone reception is nearly nonexistent.

He plans to attend Tuesday’s East Bay Athletic League (EBAL) opener against Dougherty Valley (14-1). The Wildcats, led by USF commit Ryan Beasley, are among the top teams in the Bay Area, along with the Wolves and league rivals De La Salle and Granada. California, Dublin and Monte Vista aren’t far off, making the EBAL one of the strongest leagues in the entire state this year.