by Eddie Mayrose

Four years ago, when Tim Shanahan signed on as the assistant women’s basketball coach at the College of Staten Island, he thought it the perfect way to transition into retirement from his professional life.  A former Major in the Family Court system of New York, the married father of three was more than happy to fill the void in his daily calendar by coaching the sport he loves.  He’d worked with the basketball team at his alma mater, New Utrecht High School, and then with his boyhood friend from Dyker Heights, Tom Sclafani, who runs a program in New Jersey.  This gig, however, would allow the transplanted Brooklynite, now a Staten Island resident, to remain close to home.  The one drawback would be that his schedule would conflict with that of his daughter, who had accepted a basketball scholarship at Dominican College in Orangeburg, NY and was beginning her freshman year.

Allie Shanahan, like her dad, was a four-year varsity player in high school who was highly recruited on the college level.  She chose Dominican over more prominent basketball schools because it best fit her needs academically.  Shortly after she arrived, however, came the terrible realization that she just wasn’t in the right place.  After a few weeks of soul searching, and many conversations with her dad and mom, Susan, the decision was made to enroll at CSI and continue her basketball career locally.  Her biggest concern, one she shared with her father, was how the two would interact as player and coach.

Now, we’ve all seen, heard and read about the “Little League” father; that guy who makes his kid’s sports experience a regrettable one with criticism, unwanted suggestions and negativity, all prefaced by something like, “Well when I played in college…” Tim Shanahan is the polar opposite.  Content to let others coach his kids, supportive of their efforts and, usually, sitting at a distance from the action so that his kids enjoyed their space, he allowed his children to fall in love with sports the way he did.  As a coach, however, he sees everyone the same way and is focused on making the player better and, of course, winning.  With his daughter on his bench for the first time, those two worlds would collide, and he was worried about the fallout.

Similarly, Allie knew that her last name would carry no weight with the coaching staff.  Her dad would get on her in the same manner he would any player who was a step slow, lost focus or missed a class.  The only problem was, all of her teammates parted company with Coach Shanahan at the end of practice.  Allie would be sitting across from him at the dinner table.  “I used to tell the girls on the team that I might be living in a shelter by the end of the season”, she recalled.  “Especially if we were going through a tough stretch.” 

But, a funny thing happened on the way to the estrangement of coach and player.  They each began to respect the other’s position with the team and the hard work that went into their success.  “We’ve had injury problems for two years now”, said Tim.  “Even Allie missed seven games last year with a broken foot.  To see how hard she worked to come back, how much she’s meant to us as our captain, has made me even prouder of her as a coach than I already was as her father.” 

“I know how much extra stress there is for my dad because I’m on the team”, noted Allie.  “He’s worried about all of the girls and how well we’re playing but he’s also worried about me and I see how hard it is for him to balance the two.”

Despite all of the existing circumstances that would distract them, the fact is that Allie’s career and their time together; time they’ve grown to cherish, is coming to an end.  That was never more evident than last Friday, when Allie was honored on Senior Night.  “I knew it would be too emotional for both of us if we spoke in the locker room”, said Tim.  “So I grabbed her before she left the house.  That was bad enough.  I got all choked up telling her how proud I was and what a joy the last four years have been.  She’s a wonderful young woman.”

His daughter concurred. “If we had tried to speak at school, we’d have both lost our focus.  It was better that we spoke at home.  And, once the game started, we’re down to seven players because of injuries.  I couldn’t come out anyway, so emotions were never an issue.  That was for the best”

That Allie Shanahan has left her mark on the CSI women’s program is an understatement; as she was recently named to the All-CUNY team for her stellar senior season.  The versatile forward finished third in the conference in scoring, eighth in rebounds, tenth in assists and fourth in blocked shots.  However, those statistics are but a footnote to this tale.

“Someone asked me a few weeks ago how I managed to coach my daughter and still get along with her”, remembers Shanahan.  “I told him it wasn’t as easy as it looks; that we both had to work at it.”  “But, what gets me through is to never forget that she’s mine.  My daughter is always more important than basketball.”

Amen, Tim.  Amen

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One Response to “The View from the Cheap Seats: Of Fathers and Daughters”

  1. This is a beautifully written article and is a metaphor for how each of us, as parents, can approach balancing the professional and the personal with our own children. We are coaches to our children in life but do not live through our children. This message is clear in this article. A wonderful read and an excellent lesson.


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