Over the final weeks of the season, John Doherty said thoughts of stepping down started to creep into his mind.
“Any time you’re a coach and it starts to creep in you’ve really got to think about it,” he said.
Doherty, who took over a struggling program in 2003, announced Tuesday that he was stepping down as the Paul VI High School football coach.
A 1990 Holy Cross graduate, Doherty spent seven seasons at his alma mater as an assistant before taking over the Eagles. He went 0-10 in his first season but broke even in his second year at 5-5 before directing the team to a 7-3 mark in 2005.
That was the Eagles’ first winning season since 1982, when they finished 5-4 overall.
“It’s nothing more than finally taking some time, taking a break,” he said. “I need to spend more time with my family and begin the next chapter of my life.
“It was definitely a very, very difficult decision … The most difficult decision I’ve made in my life. I love Paul VI and they’ve been nothing but great to me. The administration was great and the kids were great.”
Doherty has two young daughters, ages 9 and 6.
He held a team meeting Tuesday afternoon, bringing in everyone involved with the program.
“We all thought it had something to do with returning our pads, but all of the coaches were there and he just told us,” senior quarterback Matt Vitale said. “He said he wanted to cut right to the chase.
“Everyone was shocked. It had nothing to do with the school. He said he needed to have more family time. He told us that if we ever got into coaching, there would be a moment when you realize it’s your time to let it go.”
Doherty had nine winning campaigns, posting nine-win seasons twice. His 2007 team finished 9-2 overall, while the 2009 team went 9-1. That year, the Eagles’ lone loss was to St. Peter’s Prep in the Non-Public Group 4 playoffs.
The Eagles were 6-4 this season, falling to Don Bosco Prep in the state playoffs.
“Any time you take over a program, you hope it’s better when you leave than when you started,” Doherty said. “I have nothing but great memories, even in that first year.
“I developed a lot of long-lasting relationships with the kids and players that came through the program. Turning the program around from the beginning really stands out. It was exciting to have the kids and administration believe in you. I’ll definitely miss coaching the kids.”
Vitale described Doherty as an awesome coach.
“The best thing about him was that was always extremely competitive and intense,” Vitale said. “We never went into a game unprepared. He always got us pumped up and ready to hit someone from the opening kickoff.
“After we lost a game, that Monday or Tuesday when we put the pads back on he acted like nothing had happened. He put the last game behind him and started to get us ready for our next game.”
Vitale also noted that Doherty was “great at building relationships and made it a family atmosphere.”
“Almost every coach on our staff played under him in high school,” Vitale added.
Kevin Minnick; (856) 486-2424; firstname.lastname@example.org
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