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For years, Terra Nova football coach Bill Gray has joked that when he retires, he was going to write a book about his life as a high school coach.
Looks like Gray can finally start putting pen to paper.
The legendary Peninsula coach announced Monday he was retiring as the Tigers head coach. The news was first reported by the San Jose Mercury News and MaxPreps.com.
Calls to Gray’s office and cellphone were not returned.
There are of others, however, who had plenty to say about Gray stepping down following a 42-year coaching career at Oceana and Terra Nova.
“He’s an icon. A pillar,” said Burlingame coach John Philipopoulos, who played his senior year of high school under Gray at Oceana and has coached against him for the last 12 seasons.
“He’s what we all strive to be.”
Aragon coach Steve Sell said Gray’s announcement caught him completely off guard.
“Never saw it coming,” said Sell, who now becomes the Peninsula Athletic League’s longest tenured football coach at 14 years heading the Dons program. “My phone was just buzzing (Monday). Text after text. Everyone was kind of shocked.”
As reported by Mitch Stephens at MaxPreps.com, Gray, 66, compiled a record of 256-176-6. Since the merger of the PAL in 1996, Terra Nova is the only team to have played in the Bay Division every year. His team won six PAL Bay Division titles, including the last five in a row. He won Central Coast Section championships in 1987 with Oceana and the Division III title with the Tigers in 2010.
This season, the Tigers completed the regular season undefeated at 10-0 and is generally regarded as one of the best teams in school history. But a 26-7 loss to Valley Christian in the first round of the CCS Open Division playoffs put a damper on the year.
With Gray’s retirement, it ends an era in PAL history. He has served as the league’s football commissioner so long, not one coach in the PAL has ever been to a league meeting without Gray as the chairman.
“Who’s going to do that (now)?” Philipopoulos said. “Who’s going to hold shop? Retirement has ripple affects going way down the line.”
Said Sell: “It’s going to be different not having him be the guy. But I’m happy for him.”
Gray has also served as a mentor to many coaches, especially Philipopoulos, who admits copying a lot of what Gray did at Terra Nova for his teams at Burlingame.
“He’s been such an influence on my coaching career and we model a lot of what we do from Terra Nova,” Philipopoulos said. “He’s such a nice man and he really cares about the kids.”
And Gray was more than just a football coach. He coached wrestling for many years, was a physical education teacher until a couple years ago and has been the school’s athletic director for years. He cared about all high school sports, not just football.
And he wasn’t all about what’s best for Terra Nova. He was always looking out for the good of the PAL.
“The impact he had on athletics is much more broad than just football,” Philipopoulos said. “When he talks, people listen. When coach Gray has something to say, people listen.”
Gray was tough but fair. On the Terra Nova football website, Gray laid out exactly what was expected of players. All there in black and white. And if there were any problems, Gray dealt with them swiftly and decisively.
“I think the key word is ‘respect,’” Philipopoulos said. “[He’s a coach] who’s been there and done that. I think we’re all safe following his lead.”