In Memory

James Soden

James Soden


JAMES ROBERT SODEN - November 14, 1944 - August 22, 2013




Coaching legend dies

By horace hinshaw

Pacifica Tribune

Pacifica lost a basketball legend last week with the passing of Jim Soden.

Soden, who died suddenly last Thursday at his home in Rohnert Park, left his mark on high school basketball, not only in our community, but also San Mateo County.

Joining the Terra Nova teaching staff in 1966, he would later put the spot light on Terra Nova by coaching his girls' basketball teams to 10 league championships, 12 CCS playoffs, with one Central Coast Section title (1979) and two appearances in the first round of the Northern California tournament.

Soden lived in Pacifica for over 30 years, retiring in 2004 from teaching and moving to the North Bay.

Soden was ahead of his time. An advocate of Title IX which mandated equal funding for girls athletics in the early 1970s, he wasn't shy about voicing his opinion on developing programs for girls.

"Without Title IX, we wouldn't have the athletic programs today for women. Women should have the same opportunity as men. That's the way it should be. That's the fair way," he said when he was inducted into the San Mateo County Sports Hall of Fame in June 2011.

"Title IX served a purpose. We were like pioneers. We had this opportunity for the athletes. We committed ourselves to it. That's why we were so successful," he said. "The students would spend their summer in the gyms. They would come to practice. They wanted to learn."

My memories of Soden are that he wanted his athletes to be successful. Over the span of his coaching career he won 494 games. In 1990 he was the first San Mateo County coach to win 300 basketball games. He'd tell me, "the kids did it all; I never made a shot, never got a rebound, those kids did it'. He felt that the athletes had to be committed. He also often praised his assistants.

Soden also gave the Pacifica Tribune credit in those formidable years of Title IX for publishing girls sports. He loved to see the girls names in the Tribune. With the Tribune sports deadline being on Saturday night, he would call me and highlight the weekly games for the following Wednesday's Tribune. Some night our talks would go for hours. He loved talking about his players.

He was inducted into the City of Pacifica Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the inaugural class in 1991.

He was very fond of the community. He called Terra Nova a community school which received very good support from the staff. He would say that Terra Nova athletics became successful because of the community; that parents really cared about their children and that the parents were really into the sports.

Funeral services will be held today at Cross and Crown Lutheran Church, 5475 Synder Lane, Rohnert Park at 5:30 p.m. with a dinner following the services. A memorial is being planned in Pacifica in December. Soden was 69 years old.

His death was a shock to us. Individuals whose lives were touched by him share their memories of the beloved coach.

"Jim was a great guy and a dedicated coach. He knew the game but more importantly he was a teacher and mentor to his players," said football coach Bob Guerrero. "The best coaches are good teachers and put forth that "father" figure that some players are in need of. He was all of that."

Gary Johnson, another former coach at Terra Nova, called Soden an excellent teacher, both in the classroom and the gym.

"His attention to detail and the motivation of his students/players allowed him to be successful. Always a lot of fun to be around, talking sports or district politics," said Johnson. "Lots of great memories at basketball clinics in Tahoe where the emphasis was on blackjack, buffets and basketball, not always in that order."

Terra Nova girl's basketball program took a big step in 1976 when a young girl from the state of Indiana transferred to the school. Becky Myers would become the school's first prolific scorer, averaging 22 points a game over her three-year varsity experience. For her accomplishments, including helping the team win the 1979 CCS title, her jersey was retired.

"I have nothing but good memories of Coach Soden," said Myers from her home in Illinois. "I was a small town Hoosier girl who came to California and this man changed my life. I lived and breathe basketball and so did he. I was so lucky to be a part of his legacy at Terra Nova. The wisdom, confidence and heart he shown while leading our team to greatness has been an inspiration on and off the court throughout my life. His influence on my life is immeasurable. He was a gentle giant."

"The most important thing he taught me is you win and lose as a team. I would have never had the success I did without Coach and my teammates," added Myers. "I think of them all often and miss them dearly. Coach leaving us leaves an empty place in my heart. But he will never be forgotten. I will carry a part of him with me forever."

Bill Lepeltak, who coached with and against Soden, spoke of his relationship with the man he called a pioneer in basketball. "Jim was my mentor, friend, a great basketball coach and teacher. I learned a lot of coaching things from him, but more importantly he taught me how to treat student athletes so that the best of their abilities could be brought out. Jim had an amazing way of getting his teams to maximize their abilities."

Two of the closest people to Soden on the basketball court were assistant coaches, Tonia Moe and Dorene (Lotti) Bausino. They both graduated from Terra Nova and returned to coach at the school.

"Jim was my mentor. He taught me a lot about basketball, but mostly about coaching in general. He was very patient and knowledgeable," said Bausino, who is in her second year as principal at Terra Nova. 'He truly enjoyed basketball and had a gift when it came to coaching girls. He spent many hours guiding students on and off the court. His passion for the game was contagious and led to an overwhelming successful program that I was extremely fortunately to be a part of as a player and as an assistant coach. He will be greatly missed but will always be remembered at Terra Nova High School."

Moe was an outstanding player on Soden's 1976 squad. Two years later she returned to join him on the bench and over the next 10 seasons assisted him with his many championship teams. She also coached the girl's frosh-soph team.

"I will always remember Jim Soden as my coach, my mentor and my very good friend. In the realm of Terra Nova basketball, I will remember Jim as the person who turned a mediocre girl's program into a dynasty, highly respected not only in the county, but also statewide."

"He had an amazing memory. He could tell you about every big play from every game, down to the finest detail. He could recount exactly who the opponent was, what quarter it was, how much time was left on the clock and who the playmakers were," added Moe. "Years later, he and I would sit next to each other at a CCS championship game. It was like the old days, us sitting together talking basketball, as if we hadn't skip a beat. There he shared with me accounts of some of our biggest game moments together; remembering every detail and describing things so was as if it had happened just yesterday."

Moe, who later saw her son play for Soden as a member of Terra Nova's boys' team, credits Soden for her going into coaching, saying, "He was an inspiration to all, and has been a positive influence for so many players, students and colleagues over the years. I know this because since his untimely passing, I have heard from so many whose lives have been touched by Jim, as was mine. He will never be forgotten and will forever remain in my heart."

Jim Bresnahan coached boy's basketball at Terra Nova. Their friendship goes back almost 50 years when Bresnahan joined the school teaching staff in 1968.

"Jim was one of my closest friends and an excellent classroom teacher who also was a great basketball coach who I could always depend on for suggestions with my classes and my teams. Jim was chair of the Social Science department and was my mentor there," said Bresnahan, who became the boys' frosh-soph and varsity coach.

"Jim was one of the most successful coaches in Peninsula history. He and I attended conferences together and he always strove to improve his coaching," continued Bresnahan. "He constantly challenged his players to be better. Some of his success can be attributed to the time and energy he put into the program. He would open the gym during the summer so that the Pacifica girls would have a place to play almost year round.

Jim recognized the value of using the full court press at times and his teams did not play zone very often. This separated Jim from many of his colleagues and directly led to the first CCS championship in league history. "

"When our families were young we would have joint camping trips. Naturally we would often talk basketball around the campfire.," said Bresnahan. "As a friend, Jim was great to be around. I never heard him utter a harsh word about anyone and he always made a person feel better after spending time with him. He will be missed."

Rich Pucci was president of the Terra Nova Booster Club in 1990 when Soden won his 300th game, becoming the winningest basketball coach in San Mateo County. At this time Soden was the school's athletic director.

"Aside from his administrative duties as athletic director, his great love and passion was coaching girls basketball. His basketball program at Terra Nova was highly regarded throughout Northern California," said Pucci. "And his players... he never ever forgot them. I would listen for hours as he would re-cap games from years gone by telling stories of how his players battled and sometimes did the impossible, he loved them."

"The players' parents absolutely loved him. The parents recognized his coaching expertise, passion for the game and his dedication," added Pucci. "I remember him saying once after his team lost a close one, "we really didn't lose the game, we just ran out of time". He was a winner and we'll miss him."

Kari Trainor, who played four years under Soden, recalls some of his famous lines he would use during the games, "Okay girls, the third quarter is the most important quarter; offense sells the tickets but defense wins the game. And he would always say 'be alert' and we would say 'we need more lerts'."

Today, Trainor coaches youth club teams and still runs drills that Soden ran with her team in high school.

"He was truly dedicated to the sport listening to his cassette coaching tapes from college basketball coach Bobby Knight," said Trainor. He was a fundamentals coach and a strategist. He cared about the girls in his program. He gave me four championship years."


James 'Jim' R. Soden

James "Jim" Soden passed away in Santa Rosa on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 at the age of 69. Jim is survived by his wife Christine Kennedy; his loving children Jennifer (Eric) Bernauer, Margaret (Ray) Appenheimer, Rosie Soden, Austin Soden and Faith Soden; adored grandchildren Alex, Maggie, Peter and Owen; and his brother Tom (Cathy) Soden. Born and raised in Marin County, he was a teacher for 40 years at Terra Nova High School. He was inducted into the City of Pacifica Sports Hall of Fame and the San Mateo County Hall of Fame in recognition of his coaching the women's basketball team. He was an avid Giant' and 49er fan. He was also known as an active advocate for teachers through AFT Teacher's Union, and also for Civil and Human Rights. He actively participated in many events over the years to promote equality for all.

Friends are invited to attend a Memorial Service celebrating Jim's life at 4:30 p.m. today, Wednesday, Aug, 28, 2013 at Cross and Crown Lutheran Church, 5475 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. Private inurnment. Arrangments handled by Daniels Chapel of the Roses Funeral and Cremation Services.


go to bottom 
  Post Comment
    Prior Page

08/23/13 08:23 PM #5    

Jon Wedereit

Jim was a close friend through both high school & college.  On Sunday's during high school I often had dinner with Jim & his family after watching 3 stooges reruns. His mom was a great Italian cook.  Jim was one of the groomsmen in my wedding& he returned the favor when he got married soon after. Over the years we kind of lost contact until we renewed our friendship about 2 years ago. Since that time Gary Ragghianti and I would get together with Jim every couple of months for dinner. I really enjoyed spending time with Jim. He was just a genuinely nice & caring guy.

Jon Wedereit




08/24/13 07:48 AM #6    

Maureen Sheridan (Scott)

Jim was one of the 'Greenbrae boys' I grew up with and attended St. Anselm's and Marin Catholic.  In the grammar school days we all rode our bikes all over and Nancy Shaw and I would try to find their tree forts.  He was always polite and a gentleman to everyone.  I lost touch after our school years but I am sure that he continued his life with his strong moral beliefs and actions.  I think what I remember most was his wonderful smile.  My condolences to his family and he and they will be in my prayers.  Maureen Sheridan Scott


08/24/13 11:09 AM #7    

Anne Cunningham (Grycz)

I am saddened to learn of Jim's passing - please accept my condolences and be assured that he as well as you, his family, are remembered in my prayer.  Jim and I sat next to each other in Spanish 4 our Senior year - he was a delight.

May he rest in peace and may his family draw strength and comfort from those who love them.



08/24/13 12:19 PM #8    

Gary Ragghianti

I never had a closer childhood friend than Jim Soden.   We were both raised in Greenbrae. Our houses were very near one another and our mother's alternated cooking for us. We would end up at the house with the best was always difficult to top Jim's mother's cooking.

We went to grammar school and of course MC together. We played basketball together in high school and double dated frequently as the fashion was in the late 50's early 60's. We commuted to College together with Jon Wedereit .

 He was the best man at my wedding.

 After college we both drifted apart, married ,had children , went to work.

Over the last couple of years we reconnected and frequently exchanged emails about all that was happening in our   lives. Jon Wedereit and Jim and I would meet for dinner every couple of months and those dinners were wonderful, full of laughter and  freighted with memories of the past, primarily at MC, when we were all young and  and believed we were bulletproof. Jim's recollection of teachers and classmates and sporting events throughout high school was encyclopedic. He loved that time in his life and I must say I loved being a part of it.

 I had a last dinner with Jim (Jon was unable to make it that evening) only a couple of weeks before he died.

Jim was as good a friend as a kid could have growing up. I shall miss him and remember him fondly forever.

May he rest in peace...

Gary T Ragghiant



08/24/13 09:19 PM #9    

Edward O'Connell (O'Connellinin)

I dislike throwing a damper onto the fiery tributes about Jim, but ... well, simply said, he was too tall in high school. That fact, however, did work well when we played basquetball together because he could rebound while I was too damned short.  The equalizer was, he couldn't shoot for beans so he threw the ball to me a lot.  I liked 'ol Jim durin' them basquetball days because he used to tell me all the time that he knew intuitively I was the best shooter 'ol M.C. ever had ... except, 'o course, for my brother, Ron, who, very much like myself, has led a life that's been pretty much dissolute and ain't amounted to much.  I mean, he ended up as a goat-herder, for kricesakes.  But I digress ...
On the other hoof, when he weren't playin' basquetball, Jim was even a greater guy.  He was smart, iconoclastic, funny as hell, and so danged subtle and ironic that he could make fun of the whole M.C. institution (because that's what it was -- an institution), certain faculty members (who won't be named because they brought nuthin' but ingnorance & contrariness into our lives), almost all of the obedient types in the student body (most of whom strived -- stroved? -- to git an ackshule education), and ... where was I?  Tend to wander in my dotage.  Oh yeah, and, while he was makin' a joke of it all, the whole bunch thought he was either praising 'em or making excuses for his "I-don't-really-think-"all-this"-is-really-serious" attitude.
Lost track of Jim during my "hazy days", what some refer to as my life-debacle, and that was too bad.  I think we'd have been like-minded about authority figures and what others would consider sacred.  Bein' of an atheistic bent of mind, I don't believe in an afterlife, but, if by some weird-assed chance there are some kinds of string/quantum-theory, aternate/parallel universes, then 'ol Jim's in one of 'em givin' someone in charge the 'ol "whatfer".  
Well, we'll most all of us find out soon enough about what may or may-not come next.  Ain't none of us got longer'n about 10 to 20 years left, and most of you good ones'll probly check-out sooner'n that.  Personally, I think we all oughtta' chip in $5.00 a month startin' now, and the last survivor git's the winnings.  I'll hold the stakes if no one else wants to volunteer.
Well, adios Jim.  You were one funny, enjoyable humanbean.  The world would have been much better with more like you in it.  Hope you didn't have many regrets as you were backin' out that driveway.  Don't sound like you did. Seems like you had a hell-of-a meaningful, significant life.
Sleep well, if that's what we do ...
Ed O'Connell (The little 5'8" guard you used to throw the ball to quite often when we participated in the one enjoyable activity that made my life bearable in high-school ... beside drinkin' beer.)        

08/25/13 07:51 AM #10    

William Grady

Jim was a great friend through high school.

My thoughts and prayers are with the family.

Bill Grady







08/25/13 10:03 AM #11    

Robert Neilan

One of the good guys through grammer school and high school. I remember him with great fondness. Condolences to his family.

08/26/13 03:21 PM #12    

Maxine Iribarne (Rickets)

To the Family of Jim Soden,


    I am very sorry for your loss. I always thought of Jim as a classy guy!

He reminded me of  a "gentle giant". May he rest in peace, and may you know that I will pray for him as well as the Soden Family.


Maxine Iribarne Rickets

08/26/13 09:11 PM #13    

Antone Sousa


Jim and I grew up together. We attended St. Anselm's Grammar School, Marin Catholic High School, and the University of San Francisco.  Jim was the best man at our wedding.  He had a wry sense of humor, quick wit, and was a tremendous athlete.  He was always there for his friends (even though he drove our wedding car so fast, that he lost the rest of the party and everyone - including my parents - were late for the reception). My friend, I have so so many fond memories of us growing up.  The things we did; the mischief; the good times and the bad times.  When I think of Jim, I am reminded of that big cuddly Teddy Bear who brought so much joy into our lives.  In reading some of the comments about Jim, I can see that through his teaching and coaching, he touched so many young people.  Jim, by his example, was a role model to many of his players and students.  His life was his legacy to others.  Rest in peace, my friend.  Antone

08/28/13 01:00 PM #14    

Andrea "Ray" Minutoli

Prayers and fond memories to the family an friends of Jim.  He is resting in peace.

He was so very big in life, and will remain so in our memories.




go to top 
  Post Comment
    Prior Page