Officially, Wallace is the head women's basketball coach at San Francisco State -- the first university head coach anywhere out of Oakland -- but any sort of LinkedIn type version of his tenure on this earth would be woefully incomplete. To attempt a capture of his life oeuvre on paper or pixel is a Sisyphean task yet an appropriate undertaking because this Oakland born and bred man has a compelling and fascinating life tale.
For the sake of clarity, the "Wallace Experience" will be divided into chapters of sorts, something that life in it's non-linear and messy narrative doesn't allow.
The Basketball World
Remember the adage about finding something you love to do and you'll never have to work a day in your life? Well, there was no love of coaching, an occupation not even under the considered category in Wallace's world.
But why he entered the profession is a simple one: "my daughter was playing CYO basketball." Thus slowly the siren call began despite "I never imagined coaching anything" as his jumping off point.
Entering the profession as a compensated member, he then landed these gigs:
- Junior Varsity Girls Coach at St Mary’s High School in Berkeley and
- Head Varsity Girls Coach at Albany High School and
- Associate Head Coach at Contra Costa Community College
Now, 19 graduated student-athletes later, Wallace has just completed his sixth season at San Francisco State with a well-earned reputation as a leader who gets the most from his players. As the third-winningest coach in the program's history -- this despite having but 1.8 scholarships at his disposal -- he emphasizes defense for one specific reason. "Offense costs money, defense doesn't," Wallace explained. "The chance of me landing a skilled offensive player are not that good." Yet conversely, he has coached two 1,000 point scorers during his time with the Gators, coupled with the number #19, #25, #27, #30, #34 and #36 top 40 career point leaders in SF State's women’s program history.
Wallace added, "what I have learned in this business is that it's about money and scholarships. We do our best piecing it together with limited resources."
Yes, he does.
His Gators enjoyed two consecutive non-losing seasons with back to back 14 win seasons, while the 2009-10 squad reached the 15 win mark for the first time in 25 seasons. All the aforementioned were historical accomplishments since the Gators joined the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) conference. During those three seasons, the Gators were one of six teams earning three consecutive CCAA playoff appearance since the playoff format began in 2008. Last season, with the Gators fielding the youngest team in the CCAA, Wallace's team finished one game shy of a fourth consecutive conference playoff appearance.
Employing a method of operation built around stopping opponents has led to some intriguing scores versus D-1 opponents, teams that were expecting a veritable walk in the park. Such as a loss to Santa Clara by just three and a 42-39 defeat two seasons ago at UNLV. In the 2007-08, the Gators toppled Pacific up in Stockton by a score of 65-60.
Doing the D has thrust San Francisco State into national recognition:
- 2010-11: within the CCAA, the Gators ranked second in field goal percentage defense (35.4%) and second in team defense at 56.4 points per game allowed while ranking #20 nationally in the latter and #23 in the former -- accomplished with the youngest team in the conference (seven frosh, two sophomores and a single senior)
- 2009-10: within the CCAA, the Gators ranked first in field goal percentage defense (33.4%) and second in team defense at 56.5 points a game while ranking #24 nationally in the latter and #5 in the former
- 2008-09: within the CCAA, ranked first in field goal percentage defense (35.8%) and also first in team defense at 53.3 points per game while finishing #9 nationally in the former and #19 in the latter.
- graduating 19 of his recruits
- a team grade point average in 2010-11 of 2.95
- in 2010-11, Wallace moved into third place in career wins for the women’s basketball program at San Francisco State University
- he recruited and graduated the #6 and #7 top scorers in the history of the women’s basketball program -- Krystle Mays in 2009 and Dominique Hunter 2011
- the 2009-10 effort produced the first 15-win season since 1983
- from 2007-09, the Gators enjoyed consecutive 14-win seasons - the first time in 25 years such a feat was accomplished
- in those six seasons, three student-athletes have earned First Team All Conference honors·with four being Second Team All Conference selections
Brian Fogel, the head coach of the Chico State women's basketball team, knows Wallace well since they match up twice a season. "I think he has done a really good job at San Francisco State," Fogel offered, adding "his teams are always well-prepared and work hard. His preparation gives his team an opportunity to win."
People have noticed.
Wallace was recently featured in a national coaching management magazine (more on that below) as well being on a coaching panel at the final four which featured, Quintin Hillsman and Coquese Washington both of whom are current head coaches from prominent D-1 programs Syracuse and Penn State respectively. “Being on the panel with both Quentin and Coquese was an out of body experience for me because I respect and admire both for their passion and commitment to the women’s game”
But it certainly wasn't always that way. Call it a learning process built on a platform of both understanding and recognizing that greater knowledge was needed.
"Three years ago, I wouldn't have been ready to move up in this business," Wallace explained. "Now I'm mentally prepared and most importantly I am confident and comfortable!"
In fact, Felicia Hall Allen, a prominent sports attorney who represents both Division I and II head coaches and who also mentor’s Wallace, stated “he is the best kept secret no one knows about."
But Wallace is gratified about what is his most important task: "I'm most proud of being able to bring in kids, have them go from 17 to 22 and watch them graduate," he explained. "Witnessing the maturation process and the growth is like leaving footprints."
Last June, Wallace attended the Black Coaches and Administrators Achieving Coaching Excellence (ACE) program, something began in 2003 in order to develop ethnic minority basketball coaches in D-2 and D-3 on the elements necessary to know in order to land and operate a D-1 hoops program.
What he learned filled in the gaps and instilled an even greater sense of purpose. Wallace returned and created a program mission statement, the FACTS program: (Family, Accountability, Character, Team and Success) that is the basis upon which is team operates.
He was also featured in the Postseason 2011 edition of Coaching Management magazine.
Education as a tool
Born and raised in Oakland, Wallace graduated from Oakland Tech High in 1982. His mantra despite his many accomplishments: "if anything, I am a by-product of Oakland." What's that old (revised) saying, 'you can't the Oakland out of...'
It's true he has earned a doctorate but academics were more of an afterthought because baseball was going to be his ticket to ride.
"My Mom and Dad stressed education -- I didn't value it,": Wallace explained. "There were no educational role models, I never knew a PhD. In my neighborhood, it was drugs, sports or entertainment."
Playing baseball at San Francisco State brought him into the educational fold but, as he envisioned, only as a way station until he was drafted and made his way into major league baseball. "I was a big A's fan -- Reggie Jackson, Campy Campaneris -- and if I wasn't drafted by MLB, then I didn't know what would happen to me."
"But I got to San Francisco State and my coach [Dr. Simpson] said you have to have something to fall back on," Wallace recalls. Displaying the depth of his actual capabilities, he majored in economics. During this time, he also landed a position in 1987 with the San Francisco Giants organization, the first African-American to do so.
Professional baseball did not reach out to Wallace as a prospect but that lemon eventually morphed into the proverbial lemonade.
A BA in economics was earned in 1989, eventually followed by an Marketing MBA in 1995 from Golden Gate University and eventually a doctorate in business in 2007, again from Golden Gate University.
A musical interlude
While still in college working towards his initial degree, Wallace branched out, teaching himself to play the piano. "It's been about 20 years performing on piano and keyboards," Wallace said about yet another of his masteries. “I have played in a few bands and I have had the opportunity to open up for world reknown gospel recording artist Fred Hammond, as well as, the legendary R&B group the Gap Band” during the 90s."
1998 was the birth of Project Transition, Wallace's brainchild for creating greater economic opportunity for Alameda County residents. Implemented in 1999, it was holistically framed, a program encompassing the development of not just employable skills but also presentation and communication aptitudes. In 2002, Project Transition earned the Oakland Chamber of Commerce Community Project of the Year.
A stranger in his own land?
Call him a Renaissance Man.
Yet despite his many accomplishments, Wallace can and does move about in the East Bay minus much recognition. In an area not bereft of but certainly in need of as many role models as possible and with Oakland itself badly in need of revitalization, there's a jewel or better yet, a resource, moving about largely untapped.
That is confounding.
Yet he is recognized nationally, being listed as a change agent in the Black Contemporary Encyclopedia alongside such well known names as a pre-presidency Barack Obama, James Earl Jones, Smokey Robinson; Al Roker, Forest Whitaker and James Worthy. The volume is designed to provide biographical profiles of the important and influential persons of African American and/or black heritage.
Our ears are picking up strains of Sinatra's "The Best Is Yet To Come."