Napans may know Philippe Doherty as the man who brought elite high school boys basketball to the Napa Valley as Prolific Prep’s program director.
What they may not know is that he’s just one of four highly successful Doherty brothers, a family coaching tree that is Northern California’s iteration of the Grudens or Harbaughs.
While Phil toiled away early in the season working with the nationally recognized basketball program he co-founded, brothers Paul and Kevin were wrapping up CIF state football championships within a day of each other.
Paul, a strength coach and assistant receivers coach for Folsom High School, helped the Bulldogs to a 21-14 Division 1-AA championship win over Cathedral Catholic on Dec. 14.
The very next day, Kevin – Phil’s twin – helped coach San Francisco’s Lincoln High School to a 24-13 6-A championship win over Orange Glen.
How did this family become such a dominant NorCal coaching force? Well, it started with their upbringing in the heart of the Bay Area.
Four brothers, Phil, Kevin, Mark and Paul, all grew up in San Francisco, where their father’s love of sports and strong Catholic faith helped shape them into dedicated, hard-working student athletes from a young age.
All four played sports at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep. Their father, Patrick Doherty, grew up in Tacoma, Washington and played football and baseball at the University of Redlands. The boys were born in France and the family lived in West Africa before moving to San Francisco.
“Me and my brothers were raised in a very structured, organized household where school and sports was the mantra,” Phil said. “My dad was in the Peace Corps. My mom (Marie-Annick Doherty) was a lifelong teacher. We were educated and raised by two selfless parents.”
Patrick, who played single-A ball for the California Angels for a year, used the life lessons he learned through sports to help guide his children down a similar path.
“His biggest drive was to make sure that we got an education,” Kevin said of his father’s parenting style. “My dad was fortunate enough to go to college and I think he just wanted us to have the same opportunity.”
The passion and exuberance their father displayed clearly rubbed off on his boys. Kevin can still recall his 20-14 senior year win against Tom Brady and Junipero Serra High School.
Kevin went on to play football at UC Davis, Paul played quarterback at Menlo College, and Phil played basketball at Santa Clara and UC Davis.
Mark never played collegiately but coached soccer at Northern California powerhouse Jesuit High School in Sacramento, where he also taught and was in the Society of Jesus.
He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of San Francisco in the summer of 2014. He has master’s degrees from Fordham, St. Patrick Seminary, and a theological school in Paris. He is currently pursuing his PhD from a Dominican University in Switzerland associated with the Vatican, having been selected to go there.
After wrapping up their collegiate careers, Phil, Kevin and Paul all pursued similar career paths, coaching elite youth athletes with an emphasis on getting them to the collegiate level.
“I think we’re all attracted to the ability to help kids get that same thing we got through sports,” said Kevin, “making sure that kids were involved so that sports could kind of guide them to a high school diploma and into college.”
Upon graduating from UC Davis, twins Phil and Kevin both went back to their high school alma mater to help coach basketball and football, respectively.
In 2002, Phil left his assistant coaching job with Sacred Heart to accept a staff position with the University of San Francisco men’s basketball team. He worked with the Dons for four years before teaming up with Prolific Prep’s other co-founder, Jeremy Russotti, to coach an AAU basketball team called the Bay Area Hoosiers in 2006.
With the Bay Area Hoosiers program, Phil coached future NBA players Aaron Gordon and Jared Cunningham. The Hoosiers were also a surprisingly potent NFL pipeline, as players such as Zach Ertz, Tremaine Johnson, Julius Thomas and Thomas DeCoud all starred for the Oakland-based team.
After retiring briefly to take care of his young children in 2012, Phil was persuaded to coach for one season the NorCal Wildcats AAU team, which included current Houston Rockets center Marquese Chriss.
While coaching with the Wildcats in 2013, USA Basketball sent him and Russotti a freshman baller named Josh Jackson.
Jackson trained for seven days with the Wildcats, By the end his mother, Apples Jackson, had made up her mind that she was going to entrust her son with Phil and his staff.
“We were like, ‘What? We just met you. Is this a trick or some hidden videos?’ But she was serious,” Phil recalled. “While we were doing that training camp, she had already visited Justin-Siena and done a tour.”
In an effort to put a team around Jackson, the Prolific Prep Crew was formed. Jackson went on to the University of Kansas and now plays for the Phoenix Suns, while the Crew are in the midst of their fifth season as a program.
While Phil was making a name for himself on the national basketball scene, Kevin and Paul turned to football and strength coaching to make their marks.
Kevin coached football and weight training for four years at Sacred Heart before accepting a job with Lincoln High, where he’s been coaching football and teaching full-time for the past 16 years.
He’s now in his 11th season as track and field coach at Lincoln, and is head coach of the weightlifting team.
Paul, on the other hand, never coached at this alma mater. He began his coaching career as a football assistant with Sacramento High and also coached at Whitney High School in Rocklin before accepting a position with national power Folsom.
“Kevin and I were always football and weight-room guys,” Paul said. “We kind of went through a similar path of getting a teaching credential and getting into a physical education class.”
Now, the brothers have teamed up to run a world-class weight lifting team called the Hassle Free Barbell Club.
“We’ve had a lot of success nationally and internationally with youth junior and senior level kids,” Paul said. “I don’t know how many national championships we’ve won, but it’s over 20 and probably closer to 30.”
With athletes coming from both Lincoln and Folsom high schools, both programs are becoming stronger and not coincidentally better off on the football field.
“It all started in the weight room for football as a way for our kids to be competitive in the offseason,” Paul detailed. “And then the program just exploded. Girls came on, kids finished high school, but kept competing. We put a ton of kids into the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.”
All in all, the Hassle Free Barbell Club has placed four athletes in the Olympic World Championships, 12 in the Junior World Championships, and 15 in the Youth World Championships.
When asked how he thought his brothers had all gotten into such similar fields as elite youth coaches in Northern California, Kevin said their family is simply wired differently.
“I think the thing that my brothers and I share is often times in society, there’s a fear of excellence,” he said. “Society doesn’t value excellence, and excellence can have multiple definitions. But for us it’s trying to be the best in the country, if not the world, inside and outside the classroom.
“I think there’s a fear. I think people fear failure, so they choose not to try. It’s easier not to try and think you could’ve been successful instead of really putting yourself out there. You might get rejected or fall down or lose a couple football games or a couple meets. But in the end, you’re going to be much better because you tried.”
With a strong set of principles and an unwavering drive to be the best, the Doherty brothers are sure to keep churning out elite athletes and shaping young minds in Northern California for years to come.