When Bob Jacoby started his football coaching career in the late 1960s, his goal was to someday be a college coach.
Someday never came -- and Jacoby couldn't be happier.
Jacoby spent almost five decades coaching high school football in Western Pennsylvania, mostly as a head coach at Bishop Canevin (formerly Canevin) in Pittsburgh. Wednesday morning, he called a team meeting at the school. Battling the flu, Jacoby told his players he was done. He wasn't sick of coaching, but it was time to step aside.
Jacoby, 67, retired as Bishop Canevin's coach. He spent 40 years as the Crusaders head coach, five more as an assistant and one year as an assistant at old Mon Valley Catholic. He was one of the longest-tenured coaches in the WPIAL and his career record of 238-170-7 puts him 11th on the WPIAL all-time list for coaching wins.
Although Jacoby said it was hard to tell his players goodbye, he walked away smiling, glad that college coaching opportunity never came. He is a high school guy to the core.
"One of the things I saw early on was that those college assistant coaches would be with one college one year, and another college the next," Jacoby said. "You had to move your family everywhere. That wasn't for me. I think what really gave me a real anchor was we moved into Crafton in 1975 and have been living here ever since. It's a great community for raising kids."
And Bishop Canevin was a great place to build a program. A former North Catholic player, Jacoby ushered the school into the WPIAL in 1975 (the Crusaders played in the old Pittsburgh Catholic League until then). He won a WPIAL championship in 1990, lost in a WPIAL final once (1983) and a PIAA championship once (1990). He guided the Crusaders into the WPIAL playoffs 15 times, including 10 of the past 15 seasons.
Jacoby also was Bishop Canevin's athletic director for 30 years and the girls softball coach for 30 years. He won two WPIAL titles and one PIAA championship as softball coach.
Jacoby was an American History teacher for 44 years at Bishop Canevin, retiring from that job in the summer. That's when he started to feel a disconnect to the school and thought it would be best to retire as football coach.
"I know there are people who retire as teachers and continue to coach," Jacoby said. "But I just really lost the contact with a lot of the student body, the new teachers in the school and I lost a little bit of connection with the administration. I didn't feel like an outsider, but I just felt so different and that affected me."
Jacoby said he wants to spend more time with his wife and 11 grandchildren. His wife, Sherry, will retire this summer as a guidance counselor for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit.
The Jacobys have four children -- two sons and two daughters. Both sons, Eric and Neal, played for their father and both were assistant coaches for a number of years. Eric, the offensive coordinator, said neither he or his brother want to be a head coach. Also, Mike Lesifko, the team's defensive coordinator for 30 years, retired.
"It was wonderful all those years to be able to work with your Dad, and I think our father-son relationship got even stronger," Eric Jacoby said. "One of the things I'll always remember about him is he could see talent in young kids that others couldn't see, and he could develop that talent.
"There would be a freshman and I'd say this kid is never going to play for us. The next thing you know, that same kid is starting at outside linebacker for us, and we're 11-0."
Bob Jacoby obviously has many memories of his coaching days. The WPIAL championship was one of his most memorable games, but so was his first win in 1973 against Washington. It broke a 21-game losing streak.
"Ironically, we beat Washington to win the WPIAL championship in 1990, " Jacoby said.
The best player Jacoby ever coached against? He didn't hesitate to answer Clairton's Tyler Boyd, the Post-Gazette Player of the Year for the 2012 season. Jacoby won't name his best player, but he has no trouble picking the best athlete he has seen. He was an assistant coach when Tom Clements played quarterback for Canevin. Clements also was a basketball star, and his final college choices were Notre Dame to play quarterback, or North Carolina to play point guard. He chose Notre Dame and quarterbacked a national championship team.
"People don't realize how good he was in baseball, too," Jacoby said.
Jacoby said one of the things he will miss most is the feeling when the team got together around him in a circle before the opening kickoff Friday nights.
"I think overall kids are different nowadays, but, at the same time, there are still those who have goals ... ," he said. "It has been a good run. I'm really looking forward to some time coming up here with my grandchildren and wife, believe me."
Elsewhere in the WPIAL, Laurel hired Pat Cuba as its new football coach. Cuba was Neshannock's coach from 2007-11.
First Published January 10, 2013 5:00 AM