The Buddy's Best: Coaching Legends series focuses on 50 former coaches and the paths they took to legendary status
Editor's Note: On Tuesday we begin a 50-day series of Buddy's Best: Coaching Legends, counting down each day from 50 all the way to No. 1. Read the series as it unfolds at SouthCoastToday.com/BuddysBest
They come in various shapes and sizes and genders. But all successful coaches are shaped by a similar characteristic. They all have a feel for the game.
Knowledge of a sport is important, but how a coach relates to the players will usually determine his or her level of success. Over the next several weeks, Buddy’s Best will take a look at 50 SouthCoast coaches who, in our opinion, have reached legendary status in their profession. All walked the sidelines or sat on benches planning strategies that helped their teams write newspaper headlines while paving the way to personal recognition. From the turn of the 20th century and into the next millennium, great coaching has highlighted the level of athletic success throughout the SouthCoast community. This Buddy's Best: Coaching Legends series focuses on 50 former coaches and the paths they took to legendary status. Because we subscribe to the theory that legends are formed through deeds from the past, we also believe that past deeds should not be considered legendary until the present coach becomes a part of the past. As a result, only coaches who have been off the sidelines for at least one full year qualified for a spot in the upcoming series.
With that in mind, we would like to highlight a group of still-active or very recently-retired coaches who will automatically make the official transition to legendary status once they decide to become a part of the past and have been retired for at least one full year.
Coaches like the recently-retired Manny Lima.
Affectionately labeled the “Father of Post 1 American Legion Baseball," Lima took over the Legion’s struggling baseball team in 1980 and remained there through the 2016 season. He recently celebrated his 80th birthday and, despite delegating more authority to his assistant coaches in recent seasons, Manny remained the “face of the franchise.” He won countless Zone 9 championships, eight state titles, a Northeast Regional championship and, in 1994, his Post 1 team won a National American Legion championship in Oregon.
Sports have always played a leading role in Lima’s life. A basketball and baseball player at New Bedford High School, he was good enough in baseball to sign a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in 1957 and, although the stay was brief, he continued to show off his diamond talents by competing in the Southeastern Massachusetts Semi-Professional League well into his 30s.
John Seed recently completed his 27th season as head baseball coach at New Bedford High School and, although he plans to remain active for the foreseeable future, the former New Bedford and UMass Amherst baseball standout is already a member of the Massachusetts State Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame. With well over 300 coaching victories — all at New Bedford — Seed has led his teams to State Div. 1 Championships in 1993, 1994 and 1998 and, this past season coached the 2017 team to the school’s eighth consecutive Big 3 title.
Like Seed, New Bedford softball coach Harry Lowe is a State Hall of Famer, elected to the Massachusetts State Softball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2000. Harry has coached softball at multiple schools in his 34-year career on the sidelines — Old Colony, Apponequet and New Bedford High — winning everywhere he’s been. His combined wins total more than 500 and he led the Lakers of Apponequet to State Championships in 1992 and 1999.
Bob Hohne’s coaching numbers are mind-boggling.
Hohne, who recently completed his 39th season as girls basketball coach at Old Rochester Regional High School, finished the 2016-17 regular season with 588 career wins and is a good bet to reach 600 in his 40th campaign. To the surprise of no one, he’s been a member of the Massachusetts State Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame since 2010. And, if his basketball numbers aren’t impressive enough, consider this: Hohne completed his 17th season as the ORR girls tennis coach this season and in 2012, his Bulldogs gained national recognition following their 104th consecutive regular-season victory, finishing their fifth-straight regular season undefeated.
Another coach with eye-blinking numbers is Brian Baptiste.
The one-time basketball standout at New Bedford High and American International College in Springfield, recently completed his 35th season as head basketball coach at UMass Dartmouth this past winter and with his 600th victory became just the 14th NCAA Division III men’s basketball coach to reach that milestone. Under his leadership, the Corsairs have won 13 regular-season championships in the Little East Conference and claimed 11 tournament titles. And he’s still going strong.
Steve Gardiner’s coaching star continues to glow.
The former cross country and track coach at New Bedford High has received numerous accolades in the running sports, the highest of which is being elected to the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2000. He’s currently an assistant cross country coach and the head track coach at UMass Dartmouth, where he’s been a three-time Coach of the Year selection and was named District 1 Coach of the Year in 1996. He has led the Corsairs to a collection of divisional, state and New England championships in his 10-year reign as the school's head track coach.
Other active running coaches on the fast track to legendary status include Mark Thornhill, a former New Bedford High School Class A 600 champion and member of both the 4x200 and 4x400 state relay teams, who has kept GNB Voc-Tech track on the state athletic map since the 1980s. For his contributions to the sport and his influence on the running community, Mark was inducted into the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2012.
The husband and wife team of Bill and Cindy Tilden have been a big part of the Old Rochester track and field program for several years and in 2012 shared the running spotlight when Bill capped an undefeated season by guiding the boys team to a South Coast Conference championship — the same year Cindy directed the girls to their fourth consecutive conference championship.
A pair of veteran and highly successful women continue to shape their respective coaching careers toward legendary status. Cindy Cuthbertson has been the architect of several successful field hockey teams at Apponequet since arriving there in 1986 and Karen Arsenault, who played her way into the Fairhaven High School Hall of Fame as an athlete, is closing in on the 300-win mark in her very impressive career as the school’s girls’ volleyball coach.
It’s quite an impressive list of Coaching Legends in-waiting.
Buddy Thomas can be reached by email at email@example.com or by calling 508-979-4444.