Menlo News September 01, 2023

Paye to step down as girls’ basketball coach, stays on as flag football coach

Knights 22-year head coach, alum to focus on family, career

9.1.2023 – After two legendary tenures spanning 22 seasons and four state titles, John Paye will be handing over the reins of Menlo School girls’ basketball team. Paye will continue to be head coach of the Knights burgeoning girls’ flag football team and plans to focus more time on his family and career in real estate.

“I’m sad to leave the program. I’ll always be a Menlo Knight ,and Menlo will always be in my heart. I’ll still be a huge fan and at the games,” said Paye who graduated from Menlo in 1983.

Paye holds a 417-194 Menlo girls’ basketball coaching record, leading the team to all four of its state championships in 1989-1991 and 2019. Last season, the Knights wrapped up back-to-back CCS titles and advanced to the NorCal Championship.

“John has done so much for Menlo School. First, as a student, he was an outstanding football, basketball, and baseball player, and then as an esteemed coach of our girls’ basketball teams for 22 seasons. He has also coached a plethora of middle school teams over the years and is currently leading our inaugural girls’ flag football team,” Menlo Director of Athletics Earl Koberlein said. “John has positively impacted thousands of Menlo students over the years. He has always been a huge advocate and supporter of women’s sports and women athletes. Menlo has been fortunate to have John coach our students for as long as he has.”

As a player at Menlo School, he led the Knights basketball team to a state title in 1983, and in football, he passed for more than 8,000 yards and 80 touchdowns. Paye was drafted out of high school by the San Francisco Giants. One of the nation’s most sought-after football recruits, he opted to go several miles south to Stanford where he was the starting quarterback as well as a starting point guard. Paye was then selected in the 10th round of the 1987 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers and earned a ring at Super Bowl XXIII.

His first coaching job was by chance. Shortly after Paye was drafted by the 49ers in 1987, the players went on strike just a few weeks into the season. Paye, along with another quarterback, Hall of Famer Steve Young, stayed at Paye’s family home in Atherton not far from the 49ers’ former practice facility at Red Morton Park in Redwood City. He heard from his older sister, Amy ’87, and former high school coach, Ron Bryant, that Menlo was looking for a girls’ basketball coach, so he and Young applied.

The duo split their time between picketing and leading practices at Menlo. Shortly thereafter, an injury kept Paye off the football field and he continued coaching that full season, and stayed on until 1994.

Paye’s sister, Kate ’91, was a freshman on Menlo’s 1987-88 girls’ basketball team, and they went on to win three consecutive state Div. V championships. John’s first stint at Menlo ended in 1994, and then he came back for the 2008-09 season and coached through the 2022 season.

From when he started coaching to this day, John said he tried to use what he learned from 49ers coach Bill Walsh, who helped him understand ways to have a lot of equations so as many players as possible could contribute in games, and to always have a first, second, and third option.

During his Menlo coaching tenure, Paye was not only fortunate to coach his sister, Kate, he also coached all three of his daughters, Emma ’11, Hannah ’16, and Georgia ’21, as well as his niece, Sylvie ’22, often with son Jack nearby the bench.

Menlo’s most recent teams have adopted the theme of “Family.” The word adorned their warm-up shirts during their 2019 state championship run and ended every end-of-game huddle.

“Family and Menlo go hand in hand,” he said. “There are great families here—we saw each other as families. We shared the good and the bad together and grew as people. I learned so much coaching the girls through those 22 seasons.”

Now that he is fully immersed in flag football, Paye is proud to have helped usher in and fully support women’s sports as well. He recalls his freshman year in high school in 1979, the first year that Menlo had girls’ teams and an athletic program. “I remember playing basketball, and some of my classmates were on those first girls’ volleyball and basketball teams—we had a new gym—it was a special time.”

A search for Paye’s replacement will begin immediately.