BY DANIEL OFFNER
Earlier this week, Varsity Football Coach Tom Pugh announced that he will be stepping down after 42 years as head coach of the Holy Cross High School Knights.
“I just felt like it was time,” Pugh explained. “I have great memories here with the alumni… they’ve been good to me.”
Over the years, Pugh has been a mentor to thousands of Holy Cross students, including several student-athletes who have gone on to have successful collegiate sports careers.
“I love Holy Cross High School and I’m proud of our legacy, our mission and what I’ve been able to accomplish and experience the past 42 years,” Pugh said in a statement. “I will continue to help the program and maintain its high standards within the community, our City and with colleges.”
According to Pugh, his passion for the gridiron first blossomed when his father, the late Thomas Pugh, an editor with the New York Daily News, brought him to the Polo Grounds to see Frank Gifford and the New York Giants play, when he was just 9 years old.
Pugh would excel at football and baseball throughout his high school years, which helped him attain a football scholarship at Emporia State University in Kansas. After college, Pugh returned to the area to begin his teaching career in the Sewanhaka School District, while assisting as a football coach with Chaminade preparatory school in Mineola.
His career at Holy Cross High School in Flushing began in 1973 when he was hired as a guidance counselor and physical education instructor. However, it was the turf that was Pugh’s claim to fame.
“Coach Pugh instilled so much confidence in us as players and as people,” Tim Lisante, one of Pugh’s first team Captains from the graduating class of 1974, said. “I’m so proud my son, Patrick, also had the privilege of playing for him.”
According to Lisante, he and fellow teammate Frank Kestler recently attended a football reunion, where they presented Pugh with a trophy in recognition of his 40 years as coach. They also recalled how in 1998, 250 athletes joined Pugh on the field at halftime to honor his first 25 years.
Some of Pugh’s more recent student athletes include Kevin Ogletree, ’05, wide receiver with the New York Giants, Devon Cajuste, ’11, who will return to play his final season at Stanford University this fall and Dean Marlowe, ’10, who participated in the East-West Shrine game and is heading to the NFL Combine.
Pugh is a Holy Cross High School Hall of Famer, earning 215 career victories and 8 league titles, including the CHSFL AAA championship in 1977. He was inducted into the NYCHSAA Hall of Fame and received numerous accolades, including the Frank McGuire and Ernie Accorsi Award from the National Football Foundation.
While Pugh said he will no longer serve as head coach, he will continue to work as a guidance counselor and moderator of the Law Club, which he has been involved in since 1980. He said he is hopeful that Holy Cross will pass the torch over to his Assistant Varisty Coach Stan Aufieri, who has been with Pugh for 41 of his 42 year-career.
Pugh said that while he will no longer coach, he will continue serving as vice president of the Catholic High School Football League and will be cheering on the Holy Cross Varsity Football team, the only difference being that he will now watch from the stands instead of from the sidelines.
Reach Daniel Offner at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @DanielOffner.