PALO ALTO -- Earl Hansen, who guided Palo Alto High to the 2010 CIF Division I state football title, announced his retirement Monday after coaching the Vikings for 26 years over two stints.
"I'm still not comfortable, but it's the way it is and it's the right thing," Hansen said. "So it was emotional when I told the team today."
In his 31 years as a head coach, including five at San Lorenzo Valley, the 62-year-old amassed more than 200 victories and four Central Coast Section titles. He was named the 2010 Cal-Hi Sports Coach of the Year and groomed 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh (class of '82) during his junior and senior years at Palo Alto.
Palo Alto (6-6) was eliminated Friday in the CCS Division II semifinals.
"I'm going to miss all the kids," Hansen said. "I'll miss the competition at some points and I'll miss the kids No. 1."
Hansen made the decision a year ago to retire. But until the Vikings were eliminated from the playoffs, only three people knew about his impending announcement -- all members of his family.
At a team meeting Monday, Hansen broke the news to his players.
"Some people were kind of guessing, but it shocked a lot of people at the same time," said Palo Alto senior Andrew Frick, one of the co-captains. "It was quite a meeting that we had to start off the week.
"There was this huge applause," Frick added. "Everyone was just taken away. Myself and all other seniors, especially, it's really something special to be able to be the last senior class under this legend. ... It was really something to see the end of this era that we've been a part of now."
Hansen said he felt humbled by the reaction of his players.
"There's no way to prepare for that," he said.
A physical education teacher and athletic director at the high school, Hansen plans to stick around until the end of the academic year. He will play a role in the search for his replacement.
"I do have people in mind, so hopefully that will work out," Hansen said. "And no names."
The decision was not health related, he said. Rather, Hansen wanted to spend more time with his family.
"It's time," he said. "I've been doing this for 40 years and we want to go off and do a couple of other things."