One of the true icons of local education has passed away.
Maureen Bryant, who for forty years served as a teacher and coach at San Marino High School, died on Tuesday morning after a long, but quiet battle with cancer.
Bryant coached a record 14 boys’ and girls’ tennis teams to CIF championships at SMHS, including a remarkable total of six between the years of 1996-2000. San Marino High School’s 1998 boys’ tennis team that included future NCAA Division 1 players John Paul Fruttero, Andrew Park and Zoran Korak was ranked #1 in the nation by Tennis Magazine.
After leaving the coaching ranks, Bryant remained active in the tennis world. This past year, she was in charge of CIF Division 1 boy’s tennis, according to Melwin Pereira, the current boys’ and girls’ tennis coach at San Marino High School.
“She was a great lady,” said Pereira, struggling with emotions while conducting practice on a court named after Bryant. “The best.”
Similar tributes to Bryant have flowed back towards the source of sportsmanship, goodwill and, above all, humility, one of her many trademarks.
“Mrs. Bryant seemed so dedicated to being a great educator,” said Andrew Park, who followed up his stellar high school accomplishments with a national title-winning career at USC. “She was caring and had an ability to always keep things focused and fun. As I grow older, I have developed more respect for people like Mrs. Bryant, who really help to prepare people for life.”
Jon Imamura coached and taught alongside Bryant during what many consider to be San Marino High School’s “Golden Years.”
“Besides being a legendary tennis coach, Ms. Bryant typified the ‘old school way,” Imamura said. “Tough but fair, dedicated and hardworking, selfless and a wonderful friend.”
Derek Tsu was a member and co-captain of the legendary 1998 squad.
“Mo was a great coach to me throughout high school,” Tsu said. “She was my first teacher in leadership and those lessons have carried me through to success at MIT and each of my careers afterwards. Even after high school, I would occasionally reach out to Mo because of her influence on me and this news makes me extremely sad.”
“Maureen was a tremendous advocate for girls’ athletics,” said Kevin Hall, a retired teacher and coach at San Marino High School whose career ran a course similar to Bryant’s. “The foundation of her efforts was most evident in the enormous success garnered by the girls’ tennis program at San Marino High School.”
Justin Gu was also a member of the 1998 team, which wrapped up action shortly before Gu graduated that same year.
“Coach Mo, Mrs. Bryant, was a constant presence in my high school life, not only for me, but also my sister Jennifer (class of ’94) and brother Jeffrey (class of ’96),” Gu told The Tribune. “The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Mrs. Bryant is that she was simply a great person. She was warm and caring, almost like a second mother while in school. Looking back, there was no single teacher that I spent more time with at SMHS than Mrs. Bryant.”
One of Bryant’s hallmarks was her extreme sense of calm, which was recalled in detail at a retirement party thrown in her honor. Gu agreed.
“I don’t know how she managed to lead a team of 12 cocky and immature teenage boys to three CIF championships and two undefeated seasons,” he said. “Even though this happened more than 20 years ago, these achievements still bring me great pride and happiness. For Mrs. Bryant, I can imagine how much these achievements meant to her as a coach. I’m thankful that we got to share those happy memories together.”
David Irie, the current athletic director at San Marino High School, was also a contemporary of Bryant.
“When I began working here in San Marino in 1991, there were two people that were our mentors,” Irie said. “Mickey McNamee and Maureen Bryant were the two most respected members of the faculty that we all aspired to be like. As the years have passed, I have realized more and more how much they have meant to the San Marino culture. We would not be where we are today without their years of dedication and sacrifice to the community.”
Plans are currently underway for a celebration of Coach Bryant’s life. Please continue to check www.sanmarinotribune.com for more information. Those wishing to honor her memory may donate to the San Gabriel Humane Society or San Gabriel Mission School.