Derek Poszich is going to miss the straw hat.
Ted Spadaro, who was known for wearing a straw hat on the football field, retired on Monday after 23 years at the helm of the Princeton Tigers.
Poszich and Storm McPherson, two seniors who expected to be playing for Spadaro when practice begins, will miss their coach.
“It is going to be sad not seeing that straw hat out there,” Poszich said. “We had played for him for three years and expected to see it again this year, but this is a transition we’re going to have to make as a team.
“I feel like if we can all stay together and not let it bother us, we can try to transition on and make this a great team and make the playoffs and make this town proud and make Coach Spadaro proud.”
Spadaro, who took over the reins of the Princeton football team in 1989, met with players, staff and school officials on Monday, and then announced his intentions to retire to the media through a prepared statement.
“It is with a heavy heart that I am resigning as head football coach at Princeton Senior High School,” the statement read. “I have truly enjoyed the challenges and accomplishments over the past 23 years.
“I love Tiger football, the competition, and most of all, my players. I appreciate the support from the community, coaches, players and boosters through the good times and especially the tough times. For now, I look forward to spending more time with my family.”
McPherson, who was volunteering at a local hospital at the time of the meeting, was surprised by the news and went to see Spadaro.
“He said he wanted to spend more time with this family,” McPherson said. “He told us early on that there comes a time, boys, when you have to call it quits. It is nothing you guys or anybody else did, he just really wanted to be with his family. I was thinking he would be here all four years. Him being there for three years and not being there for the fourth is going to be tough.”
According to an amended press release, the Mercer County Board of Education will meet in special session today at 5 p.m. to discuss, among other subjects, the appointment of an interim football coach for the Tigers.
Spadaro will remain as a teacher at the school, according to family members.
Neither McPherson or Poszich will allow the development to change their goals for the upcoming season, which begins with practice next Monday, followed by the season-opener on Aug. 24 at Woodrow Wilson.
“No matter who the coach is going to be,” I am going to give it all I can and try to take us to a state championship,” said McPherson, the quarterback for the Tigers.
“It can be Obama for all I care,” said Poszich, with laugh. “If they share the common goal to make it to the state playoffs, we are behind them.”
Princeton, which finished 3-7 in each of the last two injury-riddled seasons, last made the playoffs in 2009, winning six games in a row at one point before losing to close decision to top-ranked Brooke in the opening round.
McPherson, who has enjoyed a stellar offseason in preparation for his senior campaign, is confident for the upcoming campaign. He just thought he would be playing for Spadaro.
In reality, he still is.
“Coach Spadaro has had a huge impact on life having known him for 16 years,” McPherson said. “We have been through the ups and downs with him. The thing I will miss about him is we could have heart-to-heart talks and we could understand each other...
“He could bring me back up and motivate me. He taught me to be a better man, to have tough skin and not worry about what is said about me.”
Spadaro knows all about the critics. He has had his share of them, having been involved in a public hearing in 2010 following a complaint about his behavior toward a player.
He survived those issues to coach one more season, but decided against another year, much to the surprise of Keith Anderson, who has been an assistant under Spadaro for two decades.
“I have been with Ted for 20 years so this has been a sad day for me,” Anderson said. “For all the good and all the bad people say, he has definitely given his time at Princeton and gave everything he had.
“You have to respect the man for that.”
Spadaro, who was proud of sending numerous athletes to the college level, won’t be far from the minds of his players when the season does begin. Both players only wish the best for Spadaro.
“He is a great father figure and I know he wants to be that to this grandson,” McPherson said. “He will teach his grandson to be a great man. I am sure he will do great things down the road.”
“I am really happy for him, I really feel this is where he wants to be and that is all that matters,” said Poszich.
—Contact Brian Woodson
Derek Poszich is going to miss the straw hat.
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