E d Hall will be conflicted Saturday night. He’ll be on his old home turf, torn between two loyalties.
It will be, the old coach stressed Monday, a treasured torture.
Before Saturday’s Northern California Regional Open football gamebetween Folsom and De La Salle at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Hall will seek out Bulldogs co-coach Kris Richardson and offer a bear hug. As head coach at Diablo Valley in 1987, Hall recruited Richardson out of nearby College Park High to play offensive tackle, never mind that Richardson could barely jog straight without teetering.
Hall also will say hello to familiar faces in De La Salle’s colors. Hall was the first coach for the Concord school, in 1972, when scheming for opponents was the least of his concerns. He created the program from scratch – no football foundation, no practice field, no goal posts, no coaches, no budget and seemingly no hope – and laid the foundation with seven years of tireless work. The rewards were minimal, and he bowed out following the 1978 season without a winning campaign.
But he feels triumphant now. His former pupil and his old school are playing for a shot at a CIF state championship.
“I feel so good about this, so excited,” Hall, 72, said from Diablo Valley, where he still works as an assistant coach. “What I remember about Kris was his perseverance, working hard to get better. He would listen and put things into motion. And he was a great teammate.
“I heard him speak to his Folsom team after a game two years ago and loved what I heard. He gets it; everything is in perspective. I’m so impressed, and I was thinking, ‘Yeah, this is Kris.’”
Richardson said Hall gave him much-needed confidence. Hall taught him to use his hands and feet in the trenches – how to be tough, crafty and resilient.
“I was a big, slow kid in high school, 6-foot-5, 300, an overweight big guy who didn’t do much,” Richardson recalled. “Ed worked with me, believed in me, turned me into a scholarship lineman to New Mexico. He was a big reason, a huge reason, why I got into coaching.
“Without Ed and Tim Ryan (another Diablo Valley coach), I never would’ve finished college. I might’ve gone to work with my dad at PG&E, a construction foreman. But I got the passion to teach and coach, and it worked out.”
Things worked out for Hall, too. He had two stints as an assistant at Cal and two at Diablo Valley. He served as the Diablo Valley head coach (1983-92) and last year was inducted into the California Community College Hall of Fame.
Launching De La Salle’s football program remains a fresh memory.
Working as a San Francisco police officer in 1971, Hall was intrigued that De La Salle, just 6 years old, was starting a football program. He sought out Norman Cook, a Christian Brothers of Sacramento graduate and De La Salle’s founding principal. Cook had spent years pleading with administrators to start football, but he was told it was too costly and there were too many safety issues.
“I walked in cold into De La Salle, and the secretary tried to shelter Brother Cook,” said Hall, then 31. “So I sat and waited. Somehow, I got the job. We had nothing. Think about that era, the early 1970s, and what was going on in society, and we’re trying to start football with kids who never played the sport.”
Hall conducted three-a-day practice sessions, unheard of now. Once, when players didn’t show up for the third session, he tracked them down at the golf course and brought them back for two more hours.
Players carried Hall off the field after the program’s first victory, 28-0 over Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland in a junior varsity game. De La Salle’s first varsity team took the field 40 years ago, and Hall went 3-5-1. That was followed by a 4-4-1 season. His last two teams combined to win four games. Hall walked away, exhausted.
“It was very hard, but it was a great experience,” Hall said. “Things turned out just fine, didn’t they? I was the founding coach at De La Salle, but Bob Ladouceur made the sport global.”
Ladouceur, then 24, took over in 1979. He just wanted a teaching job and took on football as a bonus. Soon, he was presiding over the country’s greatest high school football program.
Ladouceur won 399 games and had more section championships (28) than losses (25). He had 20 unbeaten seasons and finished No. 1 in the country 10 times, including his final team last season. Ladouceur stepped aside last winter to allow longtime assistant Justin Alumbaugh to take over. Ladouceur now coaches De La Salle’s linemen.
“De La Salle is a great school, and the staff is still really strong, as Justin is a fine football coach,” Hall said. “It’s harder to coach now. Our sport nowadays, we’re coaching in a Facebook society, all about me, me, me. To take 50 to 55 young men and have them take all their personal objectives, goals, wants and desires and put them aside and embrace the team, that’s amazing.
“If you can do it like De La Salle has over the years and what Kris has done, you’re good, really good at what you do. You’re meant to coach.”