Being a dad is more than a game 

For many coaches and athletes who pursue sports as a profession, life is a game.

But that’s only half the equation for the Bay Area fathers that have managed to build successful careers in athletics while tending to the far more daunting challenge of raising children.

For coaches and athletes, there’s the incessant traveling, the early-morning and late-night practices, and the weekend games that keep them from home for extended periods. For coaches, there’s the realization that they might spend more time with other people’s children than their own.

Yet somehow, a slew of the most dedicated people in the Bay Area who have realized their career dreams in sports have still been able to make their children the top priority. Despite the glamour of their jobs, they understand that in their role as a father, life is not a game.

In honor of Father’s Day, The Examiner searched the Bay Area for dads who are on top of their game on the field and at home. This is our way of paying tribute to the many dads who balance their stressful day jobs and their duties as fathers with flair and grace. Happy Father’s Day.

Rex Walters

Men’s basketball coach, University of San Francisco

Rex Walters not only has the pressure-packed task of guiding five players on a basketball court, he must help his wife raise five kids at home.

To know which job is easier, just ask Walters to describe his best possible Father’s Day.

“My answer is really very simple: No fighting amongst the five kids,” the University of San Francisco men’s basketball coach said, jokingly. “That would be the perfect Father’s Day gift.”

But Walters, who as a player led Kansas University to the NCAA Final Four and spent seven years in the NBA, called the challenges of fatherhood the most important and rewarding aspect of his life.

To balance his career with fatherhood, Walters said he tries each day to adhere to a wise lesson provided by a former colleague.

“He said, ‘Everybody in life has a lot of different balls — you got your business ball, your social ball, your work ball. But you only got one ball that’s made of glass, and that’s your family. You can’t drop that ball.”

It’s also a difficult ball to handle for Walters, given that his work consumes much of his life and requires a lot of traveling.

“I try my best to make sure that I’m always there for my family,” he said. “It helps that I have a great wife.”

When the world is perfect, sometimes work and family become intertwined, Walters said.

“[The kids] love sports,” he said. “Having the ability for my kids to come to the gym and shoot and hang out and get to know the guys — I’m very fortunate.”

And like his basketball players, the best part about being a father is watching “the light bulb go on and they’ve discovered something new, they’ve achieved something they haven’t achieved before,” Walters said.

“It can be the simplest thing,” he said. “Like Ace, he’s almost 2 years old, and now he’s putting words together.”

Age: 40
Birthplace: Omaha, Neb.
Residence: San Francisco
Children: Addison, 13, Rex, 11, Riley, 8, Gunner, 6, Ace, 2
The kids’ favorite restaurant: Mel’s Diner on Geary Boulevard, a block from our house
Favorite S.F. park: Rossi Park, “It’s where we spend our most time at, no question.”
Favorite family movies: “‘How to Train Your Dragon,’ that was a great one. And ‘Up’ had a lot of messages, makes your kids really think.”
Plans for this Father’s Day: “It will be church, basketball practice and maybe a movie, and probably one good meal that I get to pick. Usually, they get to pick.”

Bob Gamino

Soccer coach and athletic director, John O’Connell High School

For Bob Gamino, this Father’s Day marks a major milestone.

The athletic director and soccer coach at John O’Connell High School — who was recently named Western Regional Coach of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations — said his father died at age 55, when he was only 9. Gamino turned 56 in April.

“I wanted to live longer than him,” Gamino said. “My wish was that my kids got to know me better than I got to know my dad.”
Gamino has two sons, ages 28 and 35, and a 27-year-old daughter. He was happy to pass on his wisdom and support to his kids, but it was them who helped turn him into a great success as a coach.

Gamino truly got into the coaching profession after instructing his kids while they played on youth soccer teams.

“I wasn’t given the God-given gifts [to become a top soccer prospect],” Gamino said. “But I could mimic the pros, I could mimic all the action they could do.”

And Gamino never pushed his kids to play or excel at soccer.

“Unlike most of my friends, all of them got started at about 6 rather than right out of the crib,” he said. “I didn’t push my kids; I wanted mine to be well-rounded. I waited for them to choose it.”

And that was the best choice on Gamino’s part. Today, one of his sons is a professional dancer in New Jersey. His daughter, also a dancer, is performing at the Ethnic Dance Festival at the Palace of Fine Arts.

An ideal Father’s Day for Gamino happens to be one of his favorite family gatherings: a picnic at Stow Lake, he said.

“We used to barbecue there on Sundays, walk around the park, just being together as a family,” Gamino said.

Birthplace: San Francisco
Residence: Daly City
Children: Juan Fuentes, 35, Pedro Antonio Gamino III, 28, Linda Larissa Gamino, 27
Father: Pedro Gamino, worked making jellies and jams
Favorite memory of father: Listening or watching old musicals with jazzy or swing piano parts. “My dad sang and played guitar and piano. Once he came to pick me after school and played a mean boogie woogie for the after-school program at Le Conte Elementary [now Leonard R. Flynn].”
Favorite movies to watch with kids: “Top Gun,” “Where the Wild Things Are,” “Captain Simion and the Space Monkeys,” “Pee Wee’s Playhouse”
Favorite restaurant to go to with family: “There are two, Bardelli’s [now closed, but the owner opened up Vasco in Mill Valley] and Benihana.”
Favorite family activities: “Walking barefoot on the beach at Ocean Beach on hot days, flying kites at Speedway Meadow, picnic and barbecue at Stow Lake.”

Stephen Silas

Assistant coach, Golden State Warriors

Stephen Silas said his father, former NBA player and coach Paul Silas, has not only helped shape his career, but offered the strategy he uses today as an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors.

“My dad was always known as someone who loves his players,” Silas said. “It’s really effective to take time to know my players, to get to know their families. I feel like they will work harder for you on the floor if they know you really care about them.”

But when it comes to his second job — raising his two daughters, ages 2 and 5 — the strategy isn’t that simple, he said.

“I have the best wife in the world,” Silas said.

Since the Warriors’ season ended, Silas has been traveling less and has been spending more time at home trying to help cook, clean and prepare his older daughter for school. He couldn’t find the right words to describe the challenge of raising two girls.

Instead, he said, “[My wife] makes it look easy. She’s amazing.”

But some credit must be paid to the Brown University alum who travels incessantly and weathers the relentless pressure of coaching an NBA team.

“Just being away [from home], especially as they get older and they have events and recitals, it makes it tough,” Silas said. “But I force myself to realize that the reason they are able to have opportunities like going to recitals and doing certain things is because of the job that I have and the work I put into it.”

Raised: Boston
Residence: Alameda
Children: Kyler Elyse, 5, and Kaelyn, 2
Father: Paul Silas, 66
Favorite memory of father: “Going to practice with my dad, being able to go to the arena where they play and being able to go shoot around before a game or at practice with my dad. Just spending time with him on the basketball court.”
Best part about living in the Bay Area: “I love it, it’s just great. It has everything you’d want and need. City, beach, snow. Whatever you want.”
Plans for Father’s Day: I think we’re just going to go to church, then go to brunch, and we may be going to a concert, Layla Hathaway at Yoshi’s in San Francisco.”
What would be your best Father’s Day ever? We would be in the NBA finals, and we were playing for the championship on Sunday.”

George Rush

Football coach and athletic director, City College of San Francisco

On balancing the roles of football coach and father, George Rush remembers what he was told by the coach he succeeded years ago at City College of San Francisco:

“He said, ‘The thing about being a coach is you’re going to find out that you’re spending more time with everyone else’s child than you are with your own.’”

But Rush, who runs a football program known for producing top college- and professional-bound talent, said he was lucky that his wife and kids have made it easy on him.

“My wife’s a wonderful person, so that helps a lot,” he said. “And my children have always been involved with football.”

One of his sons, now 36, was a ball boy at a young age, Rush said. His daughter, 39, took stats. And then there’s youngest son Gibril Wilson, 28, who Rush adopted and coached, and who’s now a veteran in the NFL.

What Rush instills in the kids both on his team and in his family is similar to what his father — a “child of the Depression” and veteran of the Navy — taught him: work ethic, ambition, independence and supporting others’ dreams, he said.

Rush said his parents would always attend his games — and his father wouldn’t do very much backseat coaching.

“Unless you asked him, he wasn’t one of those guys who gave his opinion,” Rush said. “He just enjoyed being there.”

But life hasn’t always been about football. Rush said he reveled in all the weekends he spent at the beach with his family, and said his favorite Father’s Days are spent having barbecues with his loved ones at home.

Not stated
Birthplace: San Francisco
Residence: Pacifica
Children: Tammy, 39, George Jr., 36, Gibril, 28
Father: Charles Rush, insurance broker
Favorite memory of father: “My dad coming to my games both as a player and as a coach.”
Favorite movies to watch with kids: “A Christmas Story” and “It’s A Wonderful Life”
Favorite activity with kids: Rock-skipping contests at the Russian River
Favorite restaurant to go with family: Park Chow
The best possible Father’s Day: “Spending the day with my wife, children and grandchildren at the Russian River.” Just hanging out together and barbecuing.

Jason Hill

Wide receiver, San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco-born Jason Hill said he finds it easy balancing work with fatherhood — since they’re two things he loves doing.
“It’s like I wear two different hats,” the 49ers’ wide receiver said. “When I come home, I’m Jason Hill, the dad, the boyfriend. When I go to work, I’m No. 89. I’m one of 53 [players on the team].”

And what’s great about being a father, Hill said, is not just being able to watch his son grow from a child to a man, but that he can take a break from the enormous expectations he endures as a professional athlete.

“My family, they don’t care about how many passes I’ve had,” Hill said.

And it’s a lesson on expectations that Hill said he most wants to instill in his 2-year-old as he grows up.

“[I want to teach him to] always work hard, to keep your faith in all that you do, faith in yourself,” Hill said. “Understand that your expectations have to be yours and no one else’s.”

Hill said he wants to be the “crutch” that his son can lean on when he needs guidance in life — something his father didn’t do.

“My dad helped shape what I did, but more so by what he didn’t do,” Hill said. “My mom raised us a lot of the time. I kind of learned by default, by what not to do.”

Hill said one of the toughest parts about being a professional in the NFL is having to be away from his son.

“Especially nowadays — he knows who I am now. He knows his daddy,” Hill said. “[But] I got to make the bacon so moms can cook it.”

Hill said he credits the mother of his son for being such a supportive and amazing woman.

“I don’t think [Father’s Day] is so much about dad than about the family,” Hill said, “about being together.”

Birthplace: San Francisco (Fillmore district)
Residence: San Francisco
Children: Jason Jr., 2
Father: Jerry Hill Sr., contractor (died in 2003)
Favorite memory of father: “Watching professional wrestling.”
Favorite TV program you would watch with your father: “Watch anything sports-related, ‘Jeopardy’ and ‘Wheel of Fortune.’”
Favorite activity with/memory of your child/children? “Whenever I come home, Jason Jr. runs to me and lately has been trying to scare me.”
The best possible Father’s Day: Barbecue and hanging out with his family.

Pin It

Latest in Crime & Courts

© 2019 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation