Former Saddleback and IVC men’s basketball coach Bill Mulligan dies

(Photo courtesy of Saddleback College)

Zach Cavanagh

Former Saddleback College men’s basketball coach Bill Mulligan died Tuesday (Jan. 12) morning at the age of 79.

“He was a colorful character,” Mulligan’s son and Capistrano Valley High School men’s basketball coach Brian Mulligan said.

“He was a throwback to the old era. He was a guy that said what he thought. People would look at him and say, ‘Did he really just say that?'”

Mulligan’s career started at Long Beach Poly High School before he moved to Riverside Community College to replace college basketball legend Jerry Tarkanian in 1966. Mulligan moved on to Saddleback in 1975 and UC Irvine in 1980. After 11 seasons at UCI, Mulligan finished his career at Irvine Valley College from 1992-95.

“This is a huge loss for Orange County and all the people he touched,” said Big West Conference commissioner Dennis Farrell. Farrell was the sports information director at Saddleback from 1977-80.

Mulligan had a highly successful five-season tenure at Saddleback. He compiled a record of 136-31 at Saddleback and led the team to four consecutive State Tournament berths, including a finish as the State Runner-Up in the 1978-79 season.

“He almost regretted leaving (Saddleback),” Brian said. “He had so much fun. He looked forward to every game.”

Mulligan will be remembered for his great success as a coach, but his family and friends will long remember him for his personality.

Two of Mulligan’s best traits, his humor and caring spirit, are brought out in Farrell’s fondest memory of Mulligan.

One of Mulligan’s best players at Saddleback and UCI was Kevin Magee. Magee came to Saddleback during Mulligan’s fourth and Farrell’s second year. Magee was very introverted and not very outgoing when he came to Saddleback.

“He had been burned by some relationships in the past,” Farrell said. “Bill changed him into someone quite like himself. He went from introverted to one of the most gregarious young men I had ever met.”

Mulligan is survived by his wife, Dorothy, and sons Billy Jr., and Brian.

With the aid of UCI, the family is looking for a memorial service to be held at the Bren Events Center, but plans are pending.