The one thing about coaches is they understand each other.
They have the universal language of preparation, execution, motivation and exhaustion – and varying elements of joy and profound heartache.
“The long-term coaches appreciate each other because we know what we’re going through, what it takes,” said Inderkum High School football coach Terry Stark. “And we all know it’s still about blocking and tackling. Football hasn’t really changed that much.”
But coaches don’t grind out long careers like they used to. The rigors of the profession that now includes longer seasons, a more intense microscope and the demands of parents who can be out of tune and touch when it comes to reality – “so what if my son is 5-foot-8, he deserves a scholarship!” – burns coaches out.
But there are grinders who still do this. Not to chase down milestones but to mold young lives.
Stark and Dave Humphers this season became the ninth coaches in regional history and 13th in Sac-Joaquin Section history to win 200 career games. Stark has won 135 of his 206 games at Inderkum. Humphers won 195 of his 200 during a 22-year run at Nevada Union, adding to the total as co-coach at River Valley with Brennan McFadden.
Stark and Humphers join Mike Alberghini of Grant (272) and Terry Logue of Bear River (227) as active 200-game winners.
Each of those four has enjoyed memorable moments and each has endured searing parental/community grief. But mostly, they are revered for who they are and what they have done.
The same can be said of retired area 200-game winners Max Miller (264 wins), Dan Carmazzi (258), Frank Negri (248) and Ed Lombardi (211). Geoff Wall of East Nicolaus, a Northern Section school, also has 211 victories.
Tony Martello of Colfax is sitting at 195 wins. Kris Richardson, Folsom’s coach since 2005, has 140 victories, averaging 14 a year this decade. Casey Taylor of Capital Christian has 153 wins, 149 of them over 15 seasons at Del Oro.
Logue said it best when we profiled him in a 2014 Bee story, “I need this. Coaching is good for us old timers. I’m an old dinosaur, ornery, but I firmly believe that athletics are extremely important to kids. Sports hold kids to a higher standard, and kids need structure and discipline. It’s still a very neat thing.”
Coaching wives are the unsung heroes here, too. Said Negri, blessed to have his honey, Marleen, along for the ride for so many seasons, “If your wife isn’t into sports, it’ll never work. Unless you’re rich as hell, then she won’t leave you.”
Criticism is part of the game, Lombardi once said, “Win or lose, you’re going to get the anonymous phone message, the anonymous e-mail from the concerned parent and fan. It magnifies when you’re losing. It becomes personal. All of a sudden it’s, ‘What’s the deal here? How can you be that stupid of a coach?’ You go from a genius winner one year to brain dead the next.”
Miller awhile back, “I know how coaching can really become a part of you. It can consume you, but it doesn’t have to ruin you.”
And Alberghini three years ago, “If it was just football games, I’d burn out for sure. Here, it’s getting these kids through the system, into college, the friendships you develop. That makes you feel good and worthy.”
Coaches will continue to bark to motivate. Fuming is part of the coaching DNA. Said Stark last week with a laugh, “That’s the part I enjoy: chew on them, and getting 45 kids to work together.”
The state’s winningest coach is Bob Ladouceur, who went a numbing 399-25-1 at De La Salle in Concord from 1979-2012. He had more North Coast Section championships (28) than he had losses and he never had a losing season. He did not lose to a Northern California team from 1992-2012, a span of 236 games, and he once supervised a 151-game winning streak, spanning 12 seasons. He remains an assistant with the program, telling me once, “the best gig of all is being an assistant coach.”
Roseville breakthrough – Larry Cunha has experienced highs and lows in his 26 years as head coach at Roseville, and this season has featured some excruciating moments. The Tigers won their first game Friday, beating Bella Vista 32-25, after an 0-6 start that featured some competitive efforts and some blowouts.
Alex Evans rushed for 305 yards and four touchdowns in a season defined by devastating injuries. Ten Tigers have been lost for the season – four torn knee ligaments, two broken tibias, one broken arm, two broken ankles and one concussion. Said the classy Cunha, “By far the most serious injuries I have seen in my 30-plus years at Roseville, and those are only the season-ending ones.”