Maury Halleck, right, coached San Marcos High to a runner-up finish in the CIF basketball championships, but the 26-1 Royals were No. 1 in the hearts of their fans. At left is John Ward, who was an assistant coach for the Royals and later coached at Bishop Diego and Carpinteria. Ward died of cancer in 2010, and Halleck died last Sunday at 86.

Courtesy Photo

Maury Halleck, who coached a San Marcos High basketball team that won 43 consecutive regular-season games and fell two points short of a perfect season, died Sunday of natural causes, it was announced Monday. He was 86.

Halleck was coach of the Royals for 23 seasons, compiling a record of 341 wins and 202 losses. His 1980-81 team made history. Known as the Runnin’ Royals, they played a pressing, up-tempo game that was engineered to near perfection by a lineup of seniors who had played together for years. They racked up 26 straight wins and reached the ultimate prep championship game in Southern California: the CIF 4A final against Long Beach Poly. San Marcos had a 14-point lead at one time, but at the end Poly prevailed, 65-63.

“I doubt I’ll ever get over it,” Halleck said in 2011. “For months after that game, it was hard to sleep. I felt for the kids. They played so well for three years and came so close at the end.”

But one loss did not diminish the lasting impact that Halleck had on his players. “I couldn’t have played for a better high-school coach,” said Jeff Azain, who at 6’4” was the tallest of the Runnin’ Royals. “He instilled life lessons. You don’t understand it when you’re 16, but later on you realize the magnitude of what you received.”

San Marcos named its gymnasium in Halleck’s honor in 2010. He was inducted into the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Hall of Fame in 1987, and he was among the first coaches named to the Santa Barbara Court of Champions in its inaugural year of 2014.

A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, December 2, at San Roque Catholic Church.


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