Simply put, the time was right for Paul Ingram.
After 38 years of coaching and eight seasons at the helm of Gloucester High football, Ingram has decided to retire.
He gathered his players at the high school Tuesday afternoon to tell them the news. It wasn’t a hasty decision. Ingram had hinted to his staff three years ago that he might retire after the 2010 season, but he wanted to stick around to see things through with the talented group of players he had.
“Just the act of keeping 17 seniors together is hard,” said Ingram in a telephone interview Wednesday, “making that commitment to each other isn’t that easy in this day and age. I felt obligated to stay with them and not have anything change for them.”
Ingram is a biology teacher at Gloucester as well and his retirement is up for review at the end of the academic year.
On the gridiron, Ingram boasts an 84-10 career record with the Fishermen, including back-to-back perfect Super Bowl seasons. He steps down after leading Gloucester to 26 straight wins – including two straight victories over Bridgewater-Raynham in the Division 1A Super Bowl in 2009 and ’10. That streak is longest current winning streak in Eastern Massachusetts.
Ingram also led Gloucester to an Eastern Mass Division 2A championship in 2007 and made a repeat appearance at the Gillette Stadium Super Bowl in 2008.
“It was a real surprise [in 2009] when we won because we didn’t really know what we had,” Ingram said. “But it was really impressive how the kids handled themselves this season. They were really playing with a target on their backs and they were mature enough to handle those expectations.”
Ingram stuck around to see it through with his tight-knit group and they shared a mutual admiration and respect for their coach. During their most recent match-up with B-R at Gillette, many of the Fishermen wore t-shirts under their game jerseys that read “Win One For Paul,” a hint that Ingram might have been coaching his last game.
“Coach Ingram has taught me everything I know about the game,” senior captain Gilbert Brown told ESPN Boston after the Fishermen claimed their third title in four years. “All of the coaches have been like fathers to me, but Ingram, especially.”
Ingram, who played football at Springfield College, said the hardest part of retirement is being away from what you love, but he wanted to make a decision sooner rather than later so that the program can begin the search for its new head coach.
“It comes down to the fact that I’m just not sure I can keep going the way I want to keep going. I wanted to make a decision that’s fair to the players.”
However, Ingram also didn’t rule out the possibility of returning to the game — eventually.
“It’ll be different. It’s funny because we all look forward to retirement, but then, when you get there, it’s scary. You go to work every day because you want to feel productive and I still feel that way.
“I’m not going to say I won’t coach again, but it was definitely time to step back. We’ll see what happens after that.”
Ingram paused and laughed.
“I’m a not a spring chicken, but I’m not elderly either.”
On the occasion of Ingram announcing his retirement, Gloucester assistant and strength and conditioning coordinator Mike Lattof contributed a few of his thoughts:
“Coach Ingram has been a mentor to me and the rest of the staff. He’s probably one of the greatest Wing-T minds out there, from a coaching perspective. He’s relentless worker and someone who is so passionate about the players, the staff, the program and the school. I was fortunate to spend the last 16 years with him. Paul’s a great coach and his love for the game is second to none, It’s been a great privilege to have been coached by him and then to be giving the opportunity to coach with him. He is a man of high integrity, that’s what stands out about him to me.
"He leaves the program that is well-established and will keep going. Most importantly, however, is the legacy that he will leave behind. He's always been there for players whenever they needed him. It doesn't matter if you're an all-state player or a scout team player. He wanted you to succeed in football and in life. I think the kids know that he cares a lot about football, but he cares more about them. He did not want his players to accept losing and he always had great preparation to win. He taught his teams to strive to win because that's what life is.
"There were a lot of great kids and a lot of great players that came through Gloucester and I think he has a lot great memories to look back on. I think his biggest legacy is that he had a positive impact on the players that came through the program not just football-wise but in life. I know that what Paul taught about Gloucester Fishermen football will help them the rest of their lives.
"His record of success as our head football coach speaks for itself. Most important is the positive impact he has had on the hundreds of student athletes he has mentored and coached over the years. Their lives have been forever changed through their association with Coach Ingram.”