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A job well done `Coach Lou'

POSTED March 29, 2014
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson


 

 

            He was just `Coach Lou’, that is all you needed to know. It speaks volumes. Sure, it was easier. Mos-car-i-tol-o is indeed a mouthful.  But the title was about familiarity. Everybody knew who `Coach Lou’ was.

            Nobody ever had to ask, Lou who. You just knew. And you knew because `Coach Lou’ was always there. For the better part of six decades at Torrington High School if there was ball involved, he was teaching athletes how to throw it, hold it and do whatever needed to be done with it. He did the Athletic Director thing.

            Coach Lou founded the Gold T awards dinner and helped form Torrington Babe Ruth League and coached some Pop Warner football. If the sporting world wasn’t your world maybe you ran across him in the class room whether it was Spanish or history or in the guidance office.

            He coached football, baseball and basketball. There were victories and championships like the 1988 NVL girls crown.  But most of all there were always kids.

            Coach Lou was just immersed in the community he loved.

            “He was just an important part of so many people’s lives,” said former THS boys basketball coach and long-time friend Tony Turina. “The only person that compares to him was Doc McKenna. Both of them did what they had to do in their lives and came back to the community.”

            Coach Lou fought the last battle Friday, passing away at the age of 87. But it was a good run and you think as much about what he left as you do about his leaving.

            It all was never a job for Coach Lou, it was a passion. I was fortunate to witness it on several fronts. The first time around wasn’t pleasant, but I understood later. After a loss to Holy Cross, I found Lou in the Athletic Director’s office that peers out over the Torrington High gym.

            Always the competitor, Lou wasn’t happy with the outcome and my arrival did not improve his mood. He ripped into me about references to turnovers in previous games. The conversation lasted an uncomfortable two or three minutes and I swiftly made my way to more peaceful areas.

            I found out later that Lou had never read any of the articles but that a couple of parents had bent his ear about the references.  It was a minor blip on the radar in a relationship that became very warm over the years.

            After Lou retired we would always talk at games and I have a number of notes he sent me over the years, complimenting an article or thanking me for putting him in the Christmas poem I do every year.

            “Lou was a tremendous competitor and he took it all so serious,” said Turina.

            I understood the passion and the temperament. I was also around when Lou was pushed out of his job as THS coach after the 1993 season. Turina will tell you he was devastated. I did a couple of stories and I heard the hurt.

But the game, the kids and passion took precedent. In his late 60s, he showed up Wolcott Tech, no offense, but not exactly most people’s retirement job. But for two years he coached, just being around the kids and enticing enough draw.

Then Turina entered the picture.

“I said Lou why don’t you come over here and help me out,” said Turina. ‘He coached for me for nine or 10 years until his back told him he could no longer go.”

Recent years were difficult for Coach Lou. He was basically blind and walking in the last year wasn’t an option. He struggled to be able to stay in touch with the people that meant so much to him.

For a guy that was born to be a coach it was difficult.

“Coach Lou was uniquely born to be a coach,” said Turina. “He always told me it was passion to coach. He loved sports and he adored being with kids. I never met a person who loved his job more than Lou did.’

Coaches coach and win games and lose games. It is all a partial measure of worth. But you miss the boat if you judge Coach Lou in those terms. He connected the past to the present, he was one of those common threads communities need to thrive.

He won a lot of games, he touched a lot more people. I watched him coach but I also had the opportunity to get to know him. My good fortune.

But coach Lou was so much Torrington’s good fortune. He came, he stayed, he cared. Nobody needs to know more than `Coach Lou.’  His career never needed a last name.  

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