For the first time in 30 years, someone not named Jon Adams is head coach of the Nottingham High football team. And even if Milo McGuire guides the Northstars to an undefeated record and a state championship, it would only be a part of what he hopes to accomplish.
“We’re trying to mold young men to be good, upstanding citizens in the community, and it starts here with us building a rapport with them; getting to that school, hitting those books,” said McGuire, who becomes the program’s third head coach since its inception in 1982. “We’ve seen tons and tons of athletes in this area who are good football players, or good whatever, and they make it nowhere because they don’t have grades. They don’t have the acceptance, they can’t get into college.”
And to McGuire, that is more important than filling a trophy case. He points to former Northstars Saquan Hampton, a Rutgers product now with the Saints, and Zack Mesday, a sixth-year senior at Temple, as examples of what hard work can do.
“What goal are we accomplishing by just winning a couple games?” said McGuire, whose regular-season debut will be Sep. 6 at Southern Regional. “I want them to win in their lives. I told the parents we’re taking SATs multiple times a year, we’re getting them in study halls, we’re getting them out of the hallways. If you can’t fulfill those things in school, I can’t have you on my team. And that’s the bottom line. Eventually we’re gonna get these guys into schools at a more rapid rate, and the ones who get in aren’t going to be back here on the sidelines after one semester, they’re going to stay in school.”
It is that kind of attitude and dedication that made McGuire a no-brainer when it came time for Adams to recommend his successor after taking over as the school’s athletic director in mid-June. The move was a popular one among players, parents, assistant coaches and pretty much anyone else who was paying attention.
When a newspaper account of McGuire’s hiring was posted on Facebook, it was shared more than 70 times. Long-time Nottingham assistant Bob Harris can understand why. He confirms McGuire’s comments about wanting to make better people as well as players.
“He’s bringing a personal aspect to it, that he wants them to leave here better than what they came in as,” Harris said. “His attitude is wanting to take these emerging adolescents and make young men out of them. Not only does he worry about the Xs and Os, he’s worried about the academic part of it too. Putting things in place, making sure they’re taking their SATs more than once, making sure they’re getting good grades and following rules and regulations.”
He wants to be their friends, but also needs to make sure they know he’s their coach.
“He knows where to draw the line between friend and coach,” Adams said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, I love you, I respect you, I want you to be part of this program, but at the same time you gotta listen to what I’m saying and do the things you’re supposed to do.’”
Adams saw all these qualities in McGuire when he pretty much gave him full head coaching duties on the field last year. Because of recurring knee surgeries, Adams was unable to stalk the sidelines and be upright at practices and said, “I basically empowered Milo because he’s in the building and the football coach has to be in the building.”
There were other candidates on Adams’ staff such as Frank Gatto, John Berei and Harris—all former head coaches—but none could devote the time that is necessary. He knew it was McGuire’s time, and so did McGuire.
He had paid his dues.
McGuire grew up in the football hotbed of Massillon, Ohio, and played for Washington High School—more commonly known as Massillon High School. The football program was the subject of an ESPN feature on the network’s search for Titletown USA. With 880 wins and 22 state titles, Massillon finished among the top four. The Tigers’ 16,600-seat stadium is named after the legendary Paul Brown, who played for Massillon and began his coaching career there before moving on to a Hall of Fame career coaching the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.
Although he did not play on a state champion, McGuire was good enough to earn a scholarship to Wake Forest. After bouncing from one job to another in Ohio, he arrived in New Jersey to become a youth worker at a detention center in Newark. From there, he got a teaching job at Bogota in 2003 and became an assistant football coach there and at Paramus High before arriving in Hamilton to teach at Reynolds Middle School in 2007.
Two years later, McGuire moved to Nottingham and coached freshman girls’ basketball before joining Adams’ staff in 2010. He coached the defensive line and served as JV coach for five years and last season was defensive coordinator and active head coach. There was also a stint as the boys’ freshman basketball coach.
While at Bogota, McGuire was offered the head football job, but felt he wasn’t ready. After learning the ropes for 17 years, he feels he is ready and so does his predecessor.
“He had a strong endorsement from myself,” Adams said. “There were other people who were interested and some candidates out there who people talked about, but in my mind Milo was the man. He proved it last year without a shadow of a doubt. I was the head coach by name but I was not the guy running the day to day operations; he did that.”
And his colleagues were in full agreement with McGuire’s promotion.
“Oh yeah,” Harris said. “He has the experience. For most of the practice schedule, anything we think we might need, he puts into the schedule. He works with us.”
Harris and Keith Zimmerman will run the offense this year while McGuire will continue as defensive coordinator; although he is looking for someone to replace him by next season.
The challenge for the new man is not on the field, as much as off it as he found out this summer.
“It’s a little daunting,” Harris said. “It’s not about coaching, either. It’s a lot of paperwork, getting guys where they’re supposed to be, talking to the parents. Stuff I wasn’t used to. It’s a lot different. Everything falls on me. The day-to-day and the stuff behind the scenes that nobody knows about, that takes some getting used to.”
But when the whistle blows, he’s in his element.
“Coaching on the field, that’s the easy part,” McGuire said. “That’s what we all love to do.”
Which is why he goes to Adams for help in some areas, but looks to make his own way in others.
“I tap into him a lot when it comes down to how to facilitate things outside of football,” McGuire said. “The fundraising, the parents, the emails; all the important things that I have to do on a daily basis that doesn’t have anything to do between the lines. So I’m talking to him all the time about that.
“As far as inside the lines, I want to create my own path. So if there’s any question I’m not doing something correctly with the kids, I’m gonna ask. But other than that I want to build my legacy to show what I can do.”
Most importantly, he wants that legacy to go far beyond winning football games.