Falmouth High’s David Halligan has won 1,001 boys’ varsity games as a soccer and basketball coach. Steve Craig/Staff Writer Buy this Photo

David Halligan sits by himself behind a basket at the Portland Expo, a few minutes before another high school basketball game.

Age 68, round and quite short, the Falmouth High coach is a Yoda-like figure. A man of wisdom and vast experience, often imparted in relatively few words. Fellow coaches come by to chat, hoping to glean some insight from a man who last week recorded his 1,000th victory in boys’ varsity sports. Halligan’s coaching resume, which dates back to 1979, includes 12 state soccer titles and six basketball championships.

What sets Halligan apart is his tremendous success in two sports, achieved while Falmouth has grown from a small Class C school into a Class A program. In both soccer and basketball, Halligan has won state titles in Class A, B and C.

On this afternoon, his team is about a half-hour away from playing long-time rival Cape Elizabeth. It will end up being Halligan’s 526th basketball victory, to go with his 396 soccer wins at Falmouth. He also won 79 soccer games in eight years at Cape Elizabeth before going home to Falmouth in 1987, the high school where he graduated in 1970.

But right now, Halligan is preparing. He’s watching Greely play a team from New York City in an exhibition. Greely and Falmouth are both top contenders in Class A South. Greely beat Falmouth earlier in the season.

“Looking for habits,” Halligan explains.


You don’t win as often as Halligan has without paying attention. Or, as he puts it, success in sports is “directly proportional to the amount of work you put in.”

“Coaching is a lot of cliches,” he adds with a small smile.

An hour or so later, Falmouth had blown out a youthful Class B Cape Elizabeth team, 69-29, with a crisp display of team-oriented ball-sharing on offense and suffocating defense. After an 0-2 start to the season, Falmouth is now 4-2.

“After every win, every loss, he says ‘when does preparation start?’ And it’s ‘preparation starts now,’ ” said Macklin Williams, a senior captain in both soccer and basketball. “He’s got a lot of sayings. I could rattle off five right now. But those are the things that stick in my mind when I’m on the field or the court. They’re really ingrained inside my head to stay within his ideals.”

Halligan has a 526-135 record in basketball (79.6 winning percentage) and a 396-103-46 record in soccer at Falmouth High. In 20 state championship games, Halligan’s teams have won 18 times. He’s 12 for 12 in soccer, the most recent coming in November when Falmouth finished a 15-2-1 season with a 5-2 win over Lewiston in the Class A championship game.

“Nobody does this anymore,” said Falmouth Athletic Director James Coffey. “Nobody stays in one place for 33, 34 years. I look at it as a huge positive.”


Halligan is climbing Maine’s all-time wins list for basketball coaches. Dick Barstow, a girls’ coach at several schools in Aroostook County from 1960-2008, leads with 664 wins. Boothbay Regional legend I.J. Pinkham, off to a 6-1 start in his 43rd season, is second with 650.

Records for career coaching wins in boys’ soccer are less certain, but with 475 victories Halligan would appear to be among the leaders in that sport, too. Ellsworth High’s Brian Higgins was Maine’s all-time leader with 556 victories when he retired after the 2015 season.

Halligan’s win total does not include his two seasons as the Falmouth girls’ softball coach (2001 and 2002), taking a moribund program to consecutive winning seasons.

“I still tell everyone that was his greatest coaching ever,” said Jamie Hilton, Halligan’s long-time basketball assistant. “He took over a team that hadn’t had any success. After he left, they went right back to losing.”

Portland boys’ basketball coach Joe Russo knows about winning, with 432 career victories.

“To do it in two sports, the focus is what’s impressive,” Russo said. “And the energy level.”


Russo counts Halligan as a good friend. The two often talk Xs and Os and trade stories.

“We talk hoops. We don’t talk soccer,” Russo said. “I used to referee soccer. I did a couple of his games and he yelled at me from the beginning to the end, non-stop. I said, ‘Geez Dave, yesterday we were talking hoops and today you’re ripping me.’ ”

“He’s super-competitive,” Russo said.

That competitiveness was initially honed as an athlete. Halligan played soccer, basketball and baseball at Falmouth and then at the University of Southern Maine (he was a captain on the 1972 USM soccer team). He admits his current basketball players find it hard to believe he played college hoops.

Halligan said he also knew from an early age that he wanted to coach. He transferred to the University of Maine to earn a physical education degree. He taught for 13 years in the Portland schools. Among his young students at that time were future coaches Mike Hagerty (Yarmouth soccer) and Phil Conley (Scarborough boys’ basketball).

Greely basketball coach Travis Seaver has had Falmouth’s number the last few years, with three straight Class A championships. But that doesn’t lessen his respect for Halligan.


“He obviously finds a great way to motivate and to teach kids. Having that success is a testament to how hard he’s worked,” Seaver said. “Honestly, the amount of time I put in (during) the winter, I can’t imagine balancing two sports and life, and work on top of that, and he’s obviously done it.”

Halligan, who teaches at Falmouth Middle School, still connects with his athletes with consistent messages.

“He’s straight up with us,” said Falmouth junior guard Nicco Pitre. “You don’t want a coach that lies. You want a coach that’s honest with you and makes sure you’re doing the right thing.”

Halligan’s peers view him as a master at preparation and in-game adjustments. His players agree.

“It happens when you have 50, 60 years of experience,” Williams said. “You pick up on things that maybe other people wouldn’t see.”

“I think his preparation is definitely key for our success,” Pitre said. “It gives us a lot more confidence.”

Halligan admits that he looks at his coaching future, “one year at a time now,” but he doesn’t sound like a man ready to retire.

“I love what I do. It’s not a job. It’s just fun,” Halligan said.

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