Ladouceur hangs up head coaching whistle after 34 seasons

It was not a somber occasion surrounding the announcement on Friday that the De La Salle of Concord football program will no longer be led by Bob Ladouceur as head coach. Photo by Harold Abend.

It was not a somber occasion surrounding the announcement on Friday that the De La Salle of Concord football program will no longer be led by Bob Ladouceur as head coach. Photo by Harold Abend.

It becomes official at Friday press conference in the theater on De La Salle’s campus. He’ll be replaced by offensive assistant Justin Alumbaugh, one of his former players.By Mark Tennis.

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Last month’s 48-28 victory by the fabled De La Salle of Concord football team over Centennial of Corona in the CIF Open Division state bowl game didn’t quite have the feel of a swan song for legendary head coach Bob Ladouceur, but the win has indeed become the last one for him as the leader of the program.

Ladouceur, 58, confirmed his retirement as the head coach on Friday after the school’s principal, Brother Robert J. Wickman, announced it during a press conference Friday afternoon in the school’s theater.

“I am not stepping away from coaching,” said Ladouceur, whose last team ended 15-0 for the first time in his career. “I will still be involved in some capacity in the program. However, 34 years as a head coach is a long time. It’s a good time for this transition.”

De La Salle’s next head coach – and just the third in the history of the school (which began in 1965 but didn’t have football until 1972) –will be assistant coach Justin Alumbaugh, who was an all-state linebacker under Ladouceur in 1997, which was the year when the team broke the national record for longest win streak and put it at 76 games at the time.

Justin Alumbaugh will move from offensive line coach to head coach next season at De La Salle, which he says will be starting next Wednesday with the beginning of off-season conditioning.

Justin Alumbaugh will move from offensive line coach to head coach next season at De La Salle, which he says will be starting next Wednesday with the beginning of off-season conditioning.

“Succeeding one of the greatest coaches in the history of everything is daunting,” said Alumbaugh, who began his coaching career at the school while he was still a student at UCLA. “The way he cares about kids is innate.”

Ladouceur is expected to remain at the school as a religious studies teacher and will continue to coach at the assistant level or possibly groom younger players. His final career record of 399-25-3 (93.8 percent) will fall just short of 400, but is vastly superior going by winning percentage than any coach in U.S. history with more than 230 wins. The only coach close to him is J.T. Curtis from John Curtis Christian (River Ridge, La.), who has gone 530-54-6 since 1969 (90.3 percent).

“His program has elevated high school football nationwide,” said Doug Huff, founder of the National Federation national record book, from his home in Wheeling, W. Va. “There’s probably not a more respected coach in the country. He built that program from scratch and he has done it the right way.”

In 2009, Ladouceur passed Marijon Ancich from St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs as the winningest coach in state history. Ancich, who coached into his 70s, retired after the 2011 season with a 360-141-1 record.

“To stay on (to get one more win) would have been a lame thing to do,” Ladoucuer said. “What difference would it have made? I understand it is some sort of important weird number. But it doesn’t matter even though way down the road some people might think I died in mid-season.”

Terry Eidson, who has been De La Salle’s defensive coordinator alongside Ladouceur for 27 years, is going to continue to serve in that role with Alumbaugh as the head coach. The rest of the school’s football coaching staff, including Joe Aliotti (brother of Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti), Terrell Ward (father of NFL player T.J. Ward), Mark Panella (a quarterback on Ladouceur’s 1984 NCS title team), Blake Tuffli, Steve Jacoby and Donnie Boyce also will likely remain in place.

“It’s been a great ride,” said Eidson, who also was the athletic director when De La Salle started playing top teams in Southern California beginning in 1998 and on ESPN in 2003. “This is the best decision for him at this time. The important thing for me is that this program puts a lot of stress on him. Ultimately, this is the best decision for him.”

After Alumbaugh’s graduation in 1998, Ladouceur’s teams would continue to post unbeaten season after unbeaten season – including wins over top teams from Southern California, Hawaii and Louisiana – until the first game of the 2004 season in a loss to Bellevue (Wash.). De La Salle’s national record lasted for 151 games, which more than doubled the previous record and is still 42 in front of the second-longest win streak in U.S. history – which is 109 games by Independence (Charlotte, N.C.) that lasted from 2000 to 2007.

While the insanely long national record will be connected to Ladouceur’s legacy perhaps more than he would like, there are many other hard to believe totals from the Cal-Hi Sports state record book he and his program have achieved since his first season in 1979. Such as:

*Winning more CIF North Coast Section titles (27) than total number of losses (24). That is an ongoing state record and includes the last 21 section titles in a row, which is another state record.

*Not losing a game to an opponent from the San Francisco Bay Area or the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section since 1991, a span of 235 games and considered Northern California by many. That streak does include two ties in the 2004 season (to Palma of Salinas and Clayton Valley of Concord) and does not include two losses (in 2004, 2005) to Clovis West of Fresno, which also could be considered Northern California.

*Setting state records for longest regular season win streak (145 games from 1989 to 2004), longest home field win streak (75 games from 1989 to 2004) and longest league win streak (90 games from 1989 and still going but that streak does not count games in which the team is considered an independent, a situation that resumed this season).

The win over Centennial of Corona also was the program’s fourth straight in the CIF Open Division state bowl game. It followed wins over previously unbeaten Crenshaw of Los Angeles 28-14 in 2009, previously unbeaten Servite of Anaheim 48-8 in 2010 and previously unbeaten Westlake of Westlake Village 35-0 in 2011. Ladouceur’s other CIF state title came in 2007. No other team in the CIF state bowl games has won more than twice.

“I really don’t know what I’m going to do now,” Ladouceur said. “When you do this job I have time for teaching, coaching and family and that’s all I’ve known for 34 years.

“We’ve talked about this as a staff maybe the first time about three years ago. The blueprint has been there. Actually, I went one year longer than I thought. It was pretty clear to me from the start of the season that this would be my last.”

California prep football will surely never be the same.

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  1. Posted January 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Tennis, that was an excellent article about an excellent guy as well as football coach.

    In this morning’s (Jan. 8) San Ramon Valley TIMES, there was a well written editorial commending Bob Ladouceur’s many accomplishments on and off the football field along with his character. It was on the editorial page, not just the sports section. It wasn’t signed so I don’t know which editor or reporter authored it. He/she should be commended. I hope you have the chance to read it.

    Another publication about Coach Lad and De La Salle football is WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL by Neil Hayes (Frog Ltd., 2003). I imagine you are familiar with the book . I highly recommend it for anybody who is interested in high school football (anywhere) or sports and education in general. I know the movie rights for it were sold several years ago and I’ve heard the film is in pre-production stages at this point. We’ve wondered who will play some of the major parts. Tom Beringer (remember THE JUNCTION BOYS?) would be perfect for Coach Fred Houston!

    Anyway thanks for the commending article about a local icon.

  2. Posted January 8, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the compliment. Jim Caviezel of TV fame (Person of Interest) is playing Coach Lad in the film and was on the sidelines for his last game. Neil’s book is from the 2002 season (MJD was team’s star). I always thought the most dramatic season was 2004 when the streak ended (team started 2-3-2), TKelly was murdered beforehand, Lad had his heart attack the previous spring, etc. That team still came back and knocked off unbeaten Amador Valley in the NCS final to keep the NCS championship streak going.

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