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PETALUMA

Could you come to St. Vincent, principal Sister Maureen said back in 1979, for a job interview?

"Sure," Gary Galloway said, "but could you give me directions to the school?"

That's how fresh and new and innocent it was for Galloway, 34 years ago. A point in time had come for him, one that would change his life forever, and he didn't know it. No one does, as he said, "when you have your whole life open in front of you." Galloway was 28. The blackboard of his life had so little written on it. The park ranger thing in Colorado, that was interesting but not interesting enough. Being the wide receivers coach under Marv Mays at SRJC, that was cool, but his glass was half full.

"I was only going to stay a year at St. Vincent," Galloway said. "I needed a job. I needed experience."

He needed to build up that resume. Something was going to happen somewhere else, he thought. He didn't know where. So he would give it a year and see what happens.

Life is what happened. It happened, in retrospect, in one big gulp. For 22 years Galloway was the Mustangs' head coach in football, basketball and baseball. Seven years ago he gave up basketball because, well — and what a shock this is — head coach of three high school sports was too much. Whereas it might have taken someone else 24 minutes to realize that, it took Galloway 24 years, which explains not his capacity for commitment but his affection for the school.

"This is where I need to be," Galloway said, and in such a simple statement is contained more numbers than in a phone book. Those 194 football victories. Those 313 basketball victories, which don't include eight years of incomplete records. And then there is baseball.

Last Thursday Galloway won his 500th baseball game when St. Vincent beat El Molino, 7-5. Wednesday, St. Vincent and its 18-4 record will begin Division 5 North Coast Section playoffs against University High School of San Francisco. Galloway is one of just 12 Bay Area baseball coaches to reach 500; no one else in the Empire has reached that number.

"I didn't even realize it until someone brought it up," Galloway said of reaching 500.

He never saw this coming, because imagining the pursuit of 500 victories 29 years ago would have seemed like draining an ocean with a teacup for Galloway. He said it was about the kids. The teaching and the coaching and the mentoring were the achievements.

"I wanted to make a difference in lives," he said.

Galloway must have. He guesses that 60 of his former players have now sent him their kids. He sighs with a certain amount of relief that he is not coaching any of his players' grandchildren. Still, that's 60 kids who, in a manner of speaking, represent a clear blood line for the St. Vincent baseball program.

And as long as we're talking about St. Vincent's baseball team and Galloway, let's surprise the coach and throw out a few numbers he doesn't know. Ok, there is one he does know.

"We've won five NCS titles," said Galloway, a 1970 graduate of Analy.

So Galloway knows that number. Here are some numbers he must guess at.

St. Vincent has made the NCS playoffs 26 of Galloway's 29 years as head coach. In those 29 years he never has had a losing season, and only one season, 2005, in which the Mustangs went .500 (10-10). His 500-195-3 career record means Galloway's teams have won 71.5 percent of the time in 29 years.

His teams have won or shared 39 league championships, 21 in baseball, eight in basketball and 10 in football. Galloway has won at least 1,007 high school football, basketball and baseball games. At least. The number would probably be much higher if the records of those eight incomplete basketball seasons were ever found. The number is large, and sounded large to Galloway.

"But I feel young," he said. "I really do."

Galloway said he has no inclination, not even a hint, to walk away into the sunset. He said he likes how teenagers keep him awake, alert. It's more of a challenge today than yesteryear, he said, because of the pressures kids face. Taking AP classes, community volunteering, playing the piano, singing, translating French into Russian, whatever, doing everything and anything to impress colleges beyond having a high GPA — Galloway now permits a player to miss practice for a lot of reasons.

"I didn't do that when I first started," he said. "But life is more complex for high school kids today. Now I really put a read on them."

Meaning Galloway sizes up players inside and out, determines what's hot air and what's legit. Adjust. Adapt.

"Kids make me feel young," said Galloway, before grinning while saying this: "I'm young until I look at the guy in the mirror shaving. Then I say, 'Who in the heck is that?'"

It's that guy who keeps building up his resume. One day that guy will be through building up his resume and will try to walk away from St. Vincent. Not just yet, St. Vincent will say. Stay. For a bit longer. Coach, we're going to name the gym after you. Or the football field. Or, at least, what the heck, second base.

You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.