Photos by Ryan Tomey
By Brian Reed-Baiotto, Sports Editor
As a reporter, you hear it a lot.
“We’re a family here at (insert any school name).”
And in many instances, that seems to be the case.
But never has it been more tangible for this reporter than walking the sidelines and observing the football coaches and players at St. Francis High School.
The love, respect and loyalty they have for one another runs deep and it’s real.
And for 20 years, no one cultivated that feeling or spirit more than the late-great Jim Bonds.
Bonds went 160-76 during his career at St. Francis, which made him the winningest football coach in school history.
In 2017, he led the program to their first CIF-SS title game appearance in more than 50 years.
And while the game ended differently than all would have liked, it was so typical of Bonds and his program, that week after week, the Golden Knights were beating teams with far more talent.
St. Francis knew they had to bust their butts, pull together and play fundamentally-sound football to be successful, and they did just that.
If you’d ever been on the visiting sideline at Friedman Field, it was a weekly occurrence to hear opposing players and coaches openly mocking what they perceived to be a less talented and athletic Golden Knights team.
Far more times than not, though, those same players and coaches left La Canada with their tails between their legs, and with the knowledge that they had just been out-played and out-coached.
Another staple of the Bonds era, which made it so fun for players, reporters and fans alike, was JB’s penchant for being unpredictable.
As a famous pro wrestler once said, and it fits Bonds so well, “just when they think they’ve got the answers, I change the question.”
Whether it was a trick play, fake punt, onside kick or a surprising two-point conversion attempt, Bonds and his program were not going down without a fight.
As the SGV area football world knows, Jim Bonds passed away in January after a battle with cancer.
He was just 51 years old.
Bonds left behind a beautiful family, including his wife Tricia, and their two children, James and Katie.
Needless to say, it’s been a tough time for all that knew and loved this great man.
Thankfully, but not surprisingly, the St. Francis family, its football program, coaches, players and their parents have embraced the Bonds family and have grieved this massive loss together.
Ted Corcoran, who is the assistant AD, strength and conditioning coach and one of Bonds’ dear friends ran the program during the spring football season.
And it had to help the program’s morale, when the school hired CIF-SS and CIF-State championship coach Dean Herrington as Jim’s fulltime replacement.
Jim and Dean were friends and Herrington actually coached Bonds back in 1985-86, when JB was the Hart High School quarterback.
Along with the Herrington hire, came the comfort in knowing that he was retaining almost the entire coaching staff that had served Bonds and the program for more than a decade, and in most cases, longer than that.
Although there is a deep sadness in not having their husband and father around physically, Tricia, their kids, and members of the Bonds family will be beaming with pride tomorrow (Friday) night as the school, players and coaches that Jim loved so much will witness the official unveiling of “Jim Bonds Stadium” in his honor.
It will take place at 6:45, which is just before the kickoff with Steele Canyon.
In a phone conversation with Tricia Bonds on Thursday afternoon, she spoke emotionally about her husband of nearly 30 years, their two children and the outpouring of love and support from the St. Francis family, his former players, coaches, administrators and beyond.
Tricia takes so much pride in the legacy that Jim left, and the impact he had on so many kids.
Perhaps no former St. Francis player is in the news more than UCLA tight end, Greg Dulcich.
Back in 2017, Dulcich wanted badly to be the Golden Knights quarterback, but Bonds felt that Greg’s future at the next level was that of a receiver or tight end.
Three months after that decision, Greg Dulcich was terrorizing defensive backfields and leading the program into the CIF-SS Division 3 title game.
Greg has said on more than one occasion with this reporter that Bonds’ decision was tough to swallow at the time, but he knew Bonds always had his best interest at heart.
And because of that and Greg’s tremendous work ethic, skills and character, today, Dulcich is one of the nation’s best tight ends for Bonds’ alma mater at UCLA.
Dulcich is proud to have been a St. Francis captain and is so thankful to Bonds and his staff for all they did to help Greg be in a position to one day play in the NFL.
“When UCLA beat LSU, I went on Greg’s Twitter page and read what he wrote about Jimmy and I started crying,” Tricia said. “To see the impact that he had on Greg’s life and career means so much to us.”
Tricia spoke about the boy she met at Hart High School in 1987 and the man she married in August of 1992.
“I was so lucky to be his wife. Jimmy was my best friend and someone with such high character. We’ve been blown away by the support we’ve gotten from St. Francis and when I think about the stadium being named after him, I think of my future grandchildren having a place to go and know how special their grandpa was. He used a lot of examples from John Wooden and taught our kids and his players about grace and character. Jim was the most unselfish man I’ve ever known and I am so proud that he was my husband. I see Jim in the faces of our two children daily and that makes me happy.”
And lastly, Coach Bonds, you’d be so happy to know that your two children are living up to the example that you and Tricia set for them.
Katie, 25, just got engaged, and is a flight attendant for American Airlines.
And James, who is now 28, works for Sony on the TV show, Jeopardy.
Because of your tireless work ethic, and the character you displayed daily, the Golden Knights football program will always be #BondsStrong.
Jim’s brother, Thomas Bonds: “As a family, we are forever grateful for the love and support the St Francis High School community has shown Jimmy. For twenty (plus) years, the administration, parents and boosters supported Jimmy in his mission to teach and lead young men of character. What they have done by dedicating the Jim Bonds Stadium is not a surprise to us, this is a very thoughtful community of people taking time to honor and recognize Jimmy’s life’s work. SFHS is built on the values it teaches. Jimmy was fortunate to teach and coach there, and share those values. We are incredibly thankful they have chosen to publicly honor Jimmy for his contributions during his tenure. We will always love SFHS and look forward to bringing generations of our family here to see this incredible tribute.”
St. Francis principal, Tom Moran: “The term ‘legend’ has unfortunately become a cliche. But, Jimmy is truly a legendary figure in St. Francis history. It is about more than football victories or players advancing to compete at the next level. He embraced, lived, and represented the school culture in a very public way. His ability to relate to and connect with people, demonstrate compassion and humility, display class, and mentor young men was second to none. He made everyone around him better and inspired loyalty. Jim’s influence on our school community will be felt as long as his name, like Jack Friedman’s, watches over the home of the Golden Knights.”
St. Francis basketball coach, Todd Wolfson: “Jim was not only a friend to me but a mentor. He was one of the first ones to text me after I got the job here at St. Francis and welcomed me to a new place with open arms. His kindness, attitude and passion for coaching was uncanny. He lit up every room he walked in. I think about him and miss him everyday.”
Former St. Francis/current UCLA tight end, Greg Dulcich: “From the time I was 12 years old, I had fallen in love with St. Francis football. My older brother George, who played for the Golden Knights, would tell me all about it and I couldn’t wait for my time to play on Friedman Field. I remember how fondly George spoke of the coaching staff and the incredible culture they had set, and why it distinguishes St. Francis from other teams in the area. When I had the privilege of playing for Coach Bonds and his staff, I had the opportunity to experience, firsthand, what all this meant. Being part of Coach Bonds’ team meant you were part of his family. He loved every one of his players on and off the field. Not only did Coach Bonds want what’s best for us, but he wanted to play an active role in fostering our success. He made it known that his door was always open whenever we needed anything, and I’m glad I took advantage of that because I know the talks we had grew us closer and allowed us to form a special relationship.
I can remember the joy I had leaving those meetings with him, after he spoke positively about my future and gave me the confidence to truly dedicate myself to becoming a better football player and a better young man. It was so gratifying knowing he had my back and that he was proud of my work, and he did so much to help me get to where I am today. Beyond his coaching and mentoring, Coach Bonds went out of his way to get me college exposure, because he knew how much playing at the next level meant to me. I knew any decision I made he would support, and the guidance and reassurance he offered me during the recruiting process helped me in profound ways. I’ll never forget the CIF run we had and the joy he’d bring to practices even in the bitter cold of November, and the passion he had on the sidelines every Friday night. I’ll never forget how he led our pregame prayers and brought each of us so close together. Naming our stadium in his honor means so much to the community he built and I am forever proud to have been a part of it.”
St. Francis football coach, Dean Herrington: “Jim was the first quarterback that I ever coached. I was the quarterback at Hart in 1980-81, Tom Bonds in 1982-83 and Jim in 1985-86. Jim developed a great culture for St. Francis. His teams gave great effort and played with class. He was a great friend and it’s an honor to follow him as head football coach at St. Francis High School.”
St. Francis coach, Ted Corcoran: “Well, the honor is incredibly well-deserved and I’m very glad that school has decided to honor him this way. I think he would be very proud of the honor but also a little embarrassed because his program was never about one person and that’s what made him so special. He had the gift to make everyone feel a part of the program. So I think the naming of the stadium is our way of saying thank you to him. Jimmy was the rare person that made others want to be around him. For me, he showed that you can laugh and have fun playing football and still be super competitive. I, along with the other coaches in the program-we had such a unique bond. Not a day goes by where we don’t share a story or use a line that we know would make him laugh. We all miss our friend.”
St. Francis athletic director, Matt Luderer: “We’re honoring my friend, Jimmy Bonds, by dedicating our stadium to him. Jimmy was a great coach at St. Francis, but an even better man and mentor to the young men here. Jim was the epitome of a Golden Knight and he more than deserves this great honor.”
St. Francis senior, Max Garrison: “Coach Bonds left an everlasting impact on my life, not just as a player, but as a young man. I will forever cherish the lessons he taught me and feel like he’s with me with me in everything I do in life. I just hope I’m making him proud. The stadium being named after him only seemed right after the impact he made on this community and this program, I know we all miss him down here.”
Former St. Francis captain, Tanner Tomko: “Coach Bonds was a teacher, mentor and a leader. He taught me how to play the game the “right way”. Most Friday nights we were not the most talented team on the field, but we were always the most prepared, thanks to Coach Bonds and the entire staff. He was always took the time to ask how I was personally. It was not just about football with him. Even at the end, I would text Coach Bonds on occasion in the hospital to ask how he was doing, and he always came back doing ok or battling it. But he would always made sure to ask how I was doing and wish me luck. As for his leadership during my junior and senior year, you could tell he was battling to be out there at practice everyday given all the medical treatments he was going through. But he never made it about him. It was about the team and how we were going to win on Friday night. I still think about Coach in difficult situations and remember how he stressed to do what is right, whatever the situation and take responsibility for your choices and actions. He taught us to be accountable. I think that philosophy is why we came out as better people when our time was done at St Francis.”
Former St. Francis captain, Matt Barriga: “Knowing that coach Bonds will be forever remembered with the renaming of the stadium is an amazing feeling. Coach did so much for not only the football program, but Saint Francis High School in general. I will always cherish the memories made while playing under coach for several years. The early morning lifts, the Saturday film review, and especially our team dinners the night before a game are all memories that will last a lifetime. It is still hard to think that coach is gone. He was such a huge part in my high school years, and the lessons he shared with me back then still are with me today, and will be the rest of my life. I will forever be lucky to have gotten to know coach and learn from him. Forever and always #Bondsstrong and Go Knights!”
Former La Salle coach and rival, Russell Gordon: “Saint Francis is doing the commendable thing: they are naming the stadium after a man that exemplified morals, graciousness, family values, integrity and most importantly, a man of high character. It was a pleasure to work in a very competitive league with Coach Bonds. I know that his family, student-athletes and friends miss him dearly, but please trust me when I say that they all have an angel watching over them. I believe that St. Francis hired a dear friend of Jim’s, who is a great coach, and with very similar life values. He will continue to preach the Bonds way. The naming of Bonds Stadium is Well deserved to a great man, family and higher-Learning institution.”
Former Cathedral coach and rival, Kevin Pearson: “Jim left a legacy at St. Francis, and he was one of the best and most prepared coaches that I’ve ever coached against. One of the highest honors as a coach is when your players want you to remain in their lives and Jim obviously had that impact. A lot of times kids don’t realize until 5,10 or even 15 years after they leave that you were trying to improve their lives and I know that the kids at St. Francis valued their time with Coach Bonds.”
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