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Neil Hayes: De La Salle's Ladouceur Was Never About the Numbers

A former Contra Costa Times sportswriter and author of a book on the De La Salle High football program reflects on Bob Ladouceur's retirement.

Neil Hayes: De La Salle's Ladouceur Was Never About the Numbers

It has never been about wins for Bob Ladouceur, even though that’s what the legendary De La Salle High School football coach will be remembered for most, at least to outsiders. 

The typical NFL fan may never have heard of Ladouceur but his body of work is as impressive as anyone who has ever coached the game on any level. The man who won 399 games in 34 years and had more California North Coast Section titles (28) than individual losses (25) announced his retirement at a press conference Friday packed with former players, fellow coaches and old friends. The announcement came less than a month after the Spartans won their fourth straight California open division state championship.

Ladouceur is best known for his team’s 151-game winning streak from 1992 through 2004, but those who played for him know it was never about winning or numbers for “Lad.” He proved that by retiring with 399 career victories, which his successor, former player Justin Alumbaugh, described as “almost poetic.” For Ladouceur, reaching the 400-win milestone was meaningless.

“Kids respect true humility and that you stand for something more than winning,” Ladouceur once said while describing his coaching philosophy. “They’ll fight for you and your program if you stand for more than that. It boils down to what you believe in as a person, and I’m talking about how life should be lived and people should be treated. Kids see all that. It’s a whole package of things that have nothing to do with standing in front of a team with a piece of chalk. You can know who to block and what play to call, but it has no meaning unless the kids know who (begin ital) you (end ital) are. Our kids aren’t fighting for wins. They’re fighting for a belief in what we stand for.”

Neil Hayes, a Chicago Sun-Times sportswriter, is the author of When the Game Stands Tall: The Story of the De La Salle Spartans and Football’s Longest Winning Streak, which inspired a movie starring Jim Caviezel that will begin filming this spring.

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