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Baseball, boys basketball coaches take on administrative roles
Neil MacDannald
Neil MacDannald gets the Manteca baseball team ready for its season opener against Atwater on Feb. 22. - photo by Photo by WAYNE THALLANDER

Manteca High athletic director Bill Slikker was tasked with replacing the city’s all-time winningest head football coach, Eric Reis, early last year.

He’s now in charge of filling three more prominent coaching positions at the school.

Neil MacDannald, going into his 20th year of teaching at MHS, has stepped down as baseball coach to serve as vice principal. Boys basketball coach Brett Lewis also earned a promotion, as he was hired as athletic director at Weston Ranch. Both moves were announced last Tuesday, June 11.

Ryan Bono also retired from coaching, doing so quietly shortly after leading the girls basketball team to its second Valley Oak League championship in three years. He was the top assistant under Lewis four years ago when the Buffaloes boys basketball team captured the CIF State Division III title.

Slikker said applications are still accepted for the baseball and boys basketball positions. The deadline is next Friday, June 28. The application process is closed for girls basketball as candidates are under review.

“Those are big shoes to fill, 100 percent,” Slikker said. “We had to fill the football job last fall and now we’re going into the summer without coaches for three other major programs — it’s going to be really difficult, and that’s going to be said to those people coming in for interviews. 

“They’ll know we do have big expectations at our school, and so far we have some pretty good applicants who can hopefully keep that tradition going. Fortunately, good coaches don’t leave their teams in a bad spot, so that should help the new hires for sure. These guys have left their programs in very good shape. ”

MacDannald looks forward to observing and supporting Buffaloes athletics as a fan, in particular the girls volleyball and softball teams — his daughter Kaylee plays for both squads and will be a senior.

Former Manteca vice principal Todd Dunaway has filled the assistant principal role previously held by Troy Fast, now principal at Weston Ranch. The timing was right to finally retire from coaching and move into an administrative role, MacDannald said. 

“Being part of Manteca High the last 20 years has been a big part of my family’s life,” MacDannald said. “I had the opportunity to advance into administration and be able to stay at Manteca High, so the stars aligned.”

The former Turlock High football and baseball standout began teaching math at Manteca in 2000 when he served as an assistant coach for the varsity football team under the late Joe Miller. He took over as offensive coordinator the following year and stayed on board in that capacity in 2002 when Reis took over. MacDannald resigned from the position in January of 2017. 

MacDannald had two coaching stints with the varsity baseball club over eight total years, the first two coming in 2007-08. He returned in 2014 and led the Buffaloes to their first Sac-Joaquin Section championships for baseball in 2014 and 2016. The 2014 team was named Cal-Hi Sports Division III State Team of the Year. He finished with a 145-77-2 record, according to MaxPreps.

“Coach Mac” was also part of five section championship football teams. He is still coaching football but at the youth level — his son Caden and Reis’ son Garrison are teammates on the Ripon Chiefs.

“Looking back, it was a pretty awesome ride,” MacDannald said, giving kudos to the “awesome co-workers and athletes” whom he now calls “some of my best friends.”

MacDannald added, “It’s going by really quickly. It happens when you’re so busy grinding and you look up and you have a senior in high school, you’re celebrating your 20th wedding anniversary and you’re about to start your 20th year at the same job.”

Lewis has already jumped into his new role as Weston Ranch’s AD. Getting familiar with new surroundings shouldn’t be too hard considering his wife and fellow East Union alum, Aubrey, currently teaches there and doubles as activities director. 

Former Weston Ranch athletic director Roland Davis remains on campus as vice principal.

“I do have a pretty good relationship with a number of the coaches and staff already,” Lewis said. “Troy Fast and I worked together the last six years and we work well together. It’s a really good situation for me. ”

Lewis coached for a total of 12 years, starting at his alma mater at East Union before the leading rival Manteca’s boys hoops team the past five seasons. He initially joined Manteca as an assistant in the 2013-14 season under Dave Asuncion.

The Lewis-led Buffaloes went 109-48 and forged an exciting rivalry with Weston Ranch during that time. Manteca lost all its battles with the Cougars in 2015-16, including the SJS Division III championship, but went on to win the state crown. 

Lewis teams up with boys basketball coach Chris Teevan, who has state championship aspirations of his own after leading Weston Ranch to a dominant 31-2 season that included a berth to the CIF State Open Division playoffs reserved for the Golden State’s elite. 

“With two kids now the outlook is a little different,” Lewis said. “I was not burned out on coaching but I was seeing the end of the road. I probably could have went another two or three years, but for me it was a good time and good opportunity.”

Like his associates, Bono had family in mind as he made his big decision. His coaching career spanned 19 years starting as an assistant for Rick Inderbitzin’s girls team at East Union and for Slikker’s boys basketball program before taking over as the head man there. 

Slikker also has history with Lewis, who played for him at the junior varsity level while at East Union. Lewis credits Bono’s part in helping the Manteca boys team make its run to the state title in 2015-16. Bono since guided the Manteca girls to a 54-31 record. The Buffaloes should be competitive again with their entire starting five returning.

Bono will continue to teach special needs at MHS.

“It’s a tough decision and I really thought about it after the season,” Bono said. “I’ve been coaching for 19 years, and I always told my girls family comes first. I had to take my own advice. It was time to put my family first again.

“The next coach, whoever he or she will be, will have a wonderful group of kids who love the game of basketball and will work hard and play for each other. I’m excited for whoever is taking over and I’ll be in the stands watching”