CONCORD -- Clearly, De La Salle High football coach Bob Ladouceur made a powerful, life-altering impression on scores of Spartans, but his impact transcended high school sports.
Ladouceur is an iconic sports figure in Northern California, judging by the reaction to his announcement Friday that he was stepping down after 34 glorious seasons as the Spartans' head coach.
"He's one of the all-time great Bay Area coaches, and we've had a lot of good ones," Pro Football Hall of Fame coach John Madden said. "You think of baseball with Tony La Russa. You think of the Bill Walshes, the Don Nelsons, Jim Harbaugh. This guy is right up with them, and you can make the case that of all the coaches in the Bay Area of all time, he's the best."
Harbaugh got to see Ladouceur's handiwork when Harbaugh coached at the University of San Diego from 2004-2006. He said he got to know Ladouceur through La Russa, the former A's and St. Louis Cardinals manager.
"I recruited some of his players, mostly when I was at USD but also some at Stanford," said Harbaugh, who left the college game to become the 49ers' coach in 2011. "He's a great gift of a teacher, a person and a presence. He has a phenomenal record, not just in football but in changing young men's lives."
Ladouceur's former De La Salle players shared stories about a coach who placed emphasis on preparation, commitment and unblinking pursuit of excellence. Despite Ladouceur's wins and titles, his relationships with players and his coaching staff best define his tenure.
"Coach Lad is one of the most important people that I've ever come across in my life," said Serra-San Mateo coach Patrick Walsh, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards as a senior in 1992, the first year of De La Salle's 151-game win streak. "I'm thankful that my mom and dad paid the tuition and sent me to De La Salle and gave me the opportunity to meet a guy like Bob Ladouceur, who's affected my life profoundly."
Marlon Blanton, a 1991 De La Salle graduate and the current Jesuit-Sacramento coach, found his path in Ladouceur's program after a troubled childhood in Pittsburg, when he grew up without parents. Blanton said current Pittsburg coach Victor Galli steered him to De La Salle.
"Bob Ladouceur would not let you fail. He would not allow you to underachieve," Blanton said.
Former NFL quarterback Matt Gutierrez echoes the sentiments of many former Spartans.
"Man, it's hard to put it in a few words," said Gutierrez, a 2002 graduate and now a Spartans freshman coach. "Probably the best way I could put it is next to my immediate family he's one of the people that's had the largest impact on my life, how I think about things and how I approach situations."
After never losing a game at De La Salle, Gutierrez moved on to Michigan, Idaho State and the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent.
"His voice has always continued to be in my mind, and I've often reflected back on conversations that I've had with him," Gutierrez said.
Ladouceur spoke Friday about how he had no desire to coach in college because he could have a greater impact when athletes are ages 14 to 18 and undergoing dramatic changes physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Boise State tight end Connor Peters, who started both ways at De La Salle, said Ladouceur never settled for anything less than perfection.
"One thing about him that I really liked is he never really gave a pregame speech," Peters said. "He never gave a speech before to rile us up. He always expected us: If you really want to win, your head should be in the game enough."
Walsh added, "He built it so well in the offseason that by the time the season came, it was like, 'What do you want to do? This isn't my team. This is your team.' " Walsh said. "I think that's a really unique way of coaching. He's just a unique and special and unselfish man."