A week after coaching his final game with the St. Charles North football program, retiring North Stars coach Mark Gould reflected on his 12 year-tenure, which ended with a 63-56 record. Gould, the lone coach in program history, led the North Stars to eight straight playoff berths from 2002 to 2009 – including a 7A quarterfinal berth in 2009 – but ended with three losing seasons, closing with a 4-5 mark this year. In this week’s Weekend Chit-chat with sports editor Jay Schwab, Gould looks back on his time at North and touches on the program’s future. The following is an edited transcript:
Do you like to decompress from football after the season is done or do you follow the playoffs much?
You know, actually it takes probably a good week or more. We have meetings with the kids afterward, equipment turn-in, so you still feel like you need to be out on the field, so it’s a weird feeling, and I have a hard time going to that first week of playoff games when we’re not in it. I have a friend who asked “Do you want to go to some playoff games?” and I said “Maybe the second week.” The first week is just difficult.
I know things are still fresh but a few weeks back [former St. Charles High coach] Buck Drach indicated he thought you might get back in the game in some capacity. Do you think you’d be open to that eventually?
Yeah, definitely. Where, I have no idea. It could be here, it could be Arizona, who knows. But it’s a game you love and it’s hard to give it up totally. Sometimes you take a few months off, that feels good, but then it’s, OK, you want to start preparing again or be involved some way. So I wouldn’t rule that out.
What would be a game or two in particular that you think will really stick with you over the years?
Probably the first game we ever won – a field goal by Kevin Czerwinski to win the game. That was so exciting for everybody to get that first win. I’ll never forget his dad was on the chain crew, and when he kicked the field goal, he was on the other side of the goal post and he caught the ball. We never saw that ball again. ... And probably when we went out to Moline and got our first playoff win.
The last few years didn’t go to plan, but do you still feel pretty strongly about the overall body of work?
Yeah, I do. We brought a new program to fruition, we had a good run in the playoffs. I do feel bad about the last few years. You always as a coach feel you should have been able to do something to bring the team to the playoffs, especially when you just miss it, but overall I think we’ve had a great relationship with the kids. Every summer, we have a lot of kids want to come back and help out in the summer program, a lot of kids who come visit or stay in touch with email. Wins and losses, we wish we could have had more [wins], but as far as having a program that the kids not only could enjoy but I think benefited them as the kids got older, I feel good about that.
Do you anticipate playing any kind of advisory role in the coaching search process?
Not really. I’ve been around long enough to see when the old coach is going out, I think people want to make sure he’s not really given a big voice in it, which probably is a good thing. ... If any kind of role, it would probably be a low key, informal type of role.
That said, would you like to see coach (Jared) McCall or any of the other guys who have been loyal to you over the years get a shot?
As far as I know on the staff, it’s [only] coach McCall, and I think very, very highly of coach McCall. I would love to see him if not get the job, be given very, very serious consideration.
How would you boil down your parting message for the returning kids?
We just had that meeting Tuesday for returning kids. I told them change sometimes is tough but change is good. They should be excited about the changes that will be coming because the new coach will come in with new ideas. There are going to be new challenges but new opportunities for guys. ... The junior kids have a great opportunity just like our kids did 12 years ago to start a new era, to work hard in the offseason to get back to the playoffs and be known as the people who kind of started a new era and got it going back in the right direction.