When John Mahaffy enrolled as a Cal undergrad in 1952, he never thought his association with the school would last so long.
Or end this way.
With a Pac-10 basketball championship after a 50-year drought, and a jersey and game ball in the final home contest of the season.
Mahaffy’s nearly half-century run as Cal official timekeeper for football and men’s and women’s basketball is about to end. He’ll work the women’s game against Stanford on Saturday, then the NCAA women’s tournament in a couple weeks. But last Saturday was his final men’s basketball game, and he figures he’s done more than 700 of them since the early 1960s.
On the day the Bears beat Arizona State 62-46 to clinch their first conference crown since 1960, Mahaffy was honored in a surprise ceremony during a second-half timeout. “I was flabbergasted,” he said.
Mahaffy, 75, enrolled at Cal one year after his father died, and both he and his mother took jobs on campus to help pay the bills. Mahaffy sold tickets to sporting events and worked as a student manager for Papy Waldorf’s football team. His mother held a variety of positions, eventually serving as a business manager for the athletic department.
When Mahaffy was a senior in 1957, the basketball team manager was drafted into the military, so coach Pete Newell asked Mahaffy to take that job. The Bears won the first of four consecutive conference titles that season.
Mahaffy enjoyed a 40-year career in education in San Mateo, but always crossed back over the Bay to Cal to serve as timekeeper for games, even working the 1959 NCAA regionals and the 1960 national championship game at the Cow Palace.
Until Saturday, he hadn’t seen another conference champion from his alma mater.
“It’s been fun watching these kids mature over four years,” Mahaffy said. “They’ve done a lot of growing together and they finally became a team. (Coach Mike) Montgomery’s done a hell of a lot of good stuff with them to help them grow.
“It’s been great to watch (Jerome) Randle become a team player and a leader, and for folks of my generation, the fact they really finally figured out that defense is not a bad idea.”
Mahaffy said the years of working for the Bears have been rewarding, but he figured it’s something he owed to his old school.
“I never would have gotten through California,” he said, “if it hadn’t been for the athletic department.”