Jim Bonds, a former UCLA quarterback and veteran St. Francis High School head football coach, died early Wednesday morning from complications of multiple myeloma, school officials reported. He was 51.
“Jimmy put up an amazing fight until his last breath,” Father Tony Marti, president of St. Francis, and Principal Tom Moran said in a joint statement. “He was a fighter and an inspiration to us all.”
Bonds, survived by his wife, Tricia, and their children, Katie and James, was diagnosed with cancer in spring 2018 but returned to the sidelines that fall after treatment. However, the cancer returned and he was recently admitted at UCLA Medical Center. In a Stand Up to Cancer segment during Game 3 of the recent World Series, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts held up a card with Bonds’ name, honoring his fellow Bruin’s battle with the disease.
“Needless to say, we’re terribly sad about this,” Marti told the Outlook Valley Sun over the phone on Wednesday. “It’s something we knew, unfortunately, but nevertheless, we weren’t ready for that. He was a tremendous coach and knew the sport so well. He was a man of integrity, a family man and a good friend. What else can I say? We’re going to miss him dearly.”
In his 20 years as head coach of the Golden Knights, Bonds amassed a record of 160-76, according to school officials. He also guided them to two league titles, a CIF Southern Section Division III runner-up plaque in 2017 — thanks to the program’s first CIF championship game appearance since 1964 — and a remarkable 19 playoff appearances.
Bonds broke onto the local football scene when he quarterbacked Newhall Hart to a CIF Southern Section championship in 1986. The two-time All-CIF star continued his athletic career at UCLA, where he competed for the starting quarterback job with Pro Football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman and Tommy Maddox and was coached by Terry Donahue, Homer Smith and Rick Neuheisel.
He played several games but spent most of his UCLA career as a backup. Bonds went on to pursue teaching and coaching. Legendary Hart coach Mike Herrington offered him a JV coaching position and he was a substitute teacher at age 23.
Former St. Francis coach Bill Redell gave Bonds the opportunity he had been looking for in 1992. Bonds took a teaching position at St. Francis and joined the varsity staff as an offensive coordinator. He had a three-year stint as head coach at Mission Hills Alemany before returning to his beloved Golden Knights in 2000 and becoming a mentor and influential figure on campus.
“He believed in the values he talked about,” Marti said. “He was an honest man and straightforward. He was very sincere, and I always appreciated that. He was always very caring and cared so much for the kids.”
Coaches and former players took to Twitter to mourn the loss of Bonds along with the St. Francis community.
La Cañada High School athletics posted, “It is with great sadness and respect that we send our condolences to our St. Francis neighbors and all those whose lives were touched by the legendary Coach Bonds.”
SFHS senior Max Garrison, a three-star football athlete who is fielding Division I offers, expressed his gratitude for Bonds.
“You took a chance on a young 14-year-old freshman, and for that I will be forever grateful,” he posted on Twitter. “You gave me hope when I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t express how much you mean to me and my family.”
Former SFHS star and UCLA athlete Dietrich Riley wrote: “This one cuts deep. Great man and human being who will be missed by everyone. Molded me into the man I am today. I owe all of my achievements and success to you.”