He is the state’s all-time winningest high school football coach. His teams have won seven states titles with him at the helm. He is in four different Halls of Fame.
With all these honors, one could ask what is left for Ed McCarthy to be recognized with. That answer came recently when McCarthy was selected to be inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame Wednesday in Louisville, Kentucky.
“It is a culmination of a lot of things,” McCarthy said. “It is ironic I retire and I also get this honor. It feels good. It ranks up there. The Hall Fame is the Hall of Fame. I have nothing but good memories with the people I taught with and coached with and against.”
This year’s class includes 30 coaches from 16 states across the nation. McCarthy, who also won a pair of state baseball titles while at St. Joseph-Trumbull, was selected for this national honor by the state’s high school coaches’ association. The selection was based on longevity, service to high school athletics, honors, and other specific state criteria.
The National High School Athletic Coaches Association is the oldest coaches association in the nation formed by coaches, for coaches, and has honored coaches from across the nation with induction into the NHSACA National Hall of Fame since 1996.
“I have an incredible amount of positive memories and great things I was able to share with these young men,” McCarthy said of his coaching days. “I love the game of football, but I love football people more. Some of the best friendships in my life have come out of guys I have coached with or coached against.”
McCarthy, who retired prior to last season, joins legendary coach John “Whitey” Piurek as the only two West Haven coaches to be inducted into the NHSACA Hall of Fame.
McCarthy was also inducted into the West Haven Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002, and was also an inductee in the inaugural St. Joseph – Trumbull Hall of Fame. He is in the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Gridiron Club Hall of Fame.
Joining McCarthy in Louisville was Amity baseball coach Sal Coppola, who was a finalist for National Coach of the Year honors. All Coppola has done is guide his team to four straight Class LL state titles and six overall since taking over 22 years ago. He is 89-21 in his last four seasons.
“Our success is really about a number of things,” Coppola said. “A lot of it has to do with my coaching staff. They are as dedicated as you will see. They put a lot of time into it. The players believe in the program. They really work extremely hard. It starts in October with the weightlifting. They work extremely hard at that. They bond together all season and it starts in October.”
Coppola was one of eight coaches from across the country who was up for the honor. Distinguished by region, Coppola is the representative from the Northeast or District 1.
“This year was extra special,” Coppola said. “The other years, we were seeded lower. One year we were 17th. We have definitely had our ups and downs in various years. This team started hot and played well all season. We were very consistent. The unbelievable part is it was all done without Chris Winkel, who is our best all-around player.
“This was really a team. We see it time and again. Teams may have plenty of talent but they don’t win. The one thing we have done well is play together and be together. These guys stick together. They are with each other three or four days a week starting in October.”
McCarthy, 69, recently retired from the West Haven school system. He spent 46 plus years in the education sector.
While McCarthy will be known for his 332 wins, seven state titles (four at West Haven in 1986, 1987, 1989, 2002, and three at St. Joseph in 1980-1982), and numerous other aspects of his coaching career, the one aspect he may cherish forever is the relationships he has built within the game, on and off the field.
Many former players have looked to McCarthy as a father figure, still keeping in touch regularly. McCarthy has been invited to christenings, weddings and more from former players.
“I see it more as a life thing,” McCarthy said. “It’s about how they are doing as adults. They have become good parents and good people. I see that they are making their mark in the community and doing positive things. That is what I reflect on.
“It means a great deal, I have been invited to a lot of weddings and baptisms. I reflect back on things like that. I have been involved coaching in football for 44 years, baseball and track for 40, and six years as a scout. I have been involved with two sports for 45 years in the spring and fall.”
Coppola, who went to school at Amity as well, takes plenty of pride in the fact he is representing Amity and the program.
“I take a ton of pride in knowing I am representing my school,” Coppola said. “I went to school at Amity. This is huge for me because it is my alma mater. I take a lot of pride in it. A few of my players have texted me since I have been here. It is like a family. I love the kids. This is bigger than me. It is about all the effort that was put into us winning.”