Published in the April 13, 2016 edition
By TOM CONDARDO
LYNNFIELD — When former Lynnfield High football coach Bill Adams was in college, his high school coach Stan Bondelevich – the winningest coach in Swampscott High history – invited him back to speak at a Big Blue banquet.
“I talked about how winning wasn’t everything,” Adams recalled. “He got really mad at me. I think he didn’t talk to me for a couple of years. But that’s the way he was. For him it was all about winning. But it wasn’t for me. To me it was about having fun, learning how to be a good teammate and learning life lessons. Winning is nice but it shouldn’t be the main thing.”
That was a consistent message for Adams during the 18 seasons he led the Lynnfield program. His goal every year was to have his team and coaches walk off the field on Thanksgiving morning knowing they did the best they could to maximize their collective ability.
On Saturday, April 24 at the Doubletree Hotel in Westborough, the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association will recognize that Adams made the most of his coaching career by inducting him into the MHSFCA Coaches Hall of Fame.
Adams will join the 230 other grid coaches who have been inducted since 1960 including Bondelevich (1977) and the first–ever Lynnfield High coach, Steve Sobieck (2002).
“This is obviously a surprise,” Adams said of the honor. “I’m actually kind of shocked. It’s absolutely a thrill. The most important thing for me, though, was that the kids were good, the parents were good and my assistant coaches were people I was really happy to work with. That means more to me than this, but this represents them as well. You don’t win something like this on your own. Everybody contributed.”
Adams patrolled the Pioneer sidelines for 187 games – the most ever by a Lynnfield head coach – compiling a 69-117-1 mark from 1985-94 and then from 2000-2007. While he focused more on effort and performance than simply victories, Adams did enjoy his share of winning. The Pioneers captured Cape Ann League championships during the first two years that Adams was in charge and earned a trip to the Division III Super Bowl in 1986. He won 25 of the first 30 games he coached, the most successful start of any LHS coach.
As enrollment at LHS plummeted from 750 to below 350 in the 1990s, the Pioneers struggled to compete against schools two to three times larger than Lynnfield like Masconomet, North Andover and Pentucket. During those down times, Pioneer teams of 25 to 30 players often stared across the field at opposing squads of 50 to 60 players.
“I wish we had won more games,” Adams said upon his retirement in 2007, “but I think in my history of being Lynnfield head coach, I was more concerned with just the survival of the program than how many games we think we could win. You can only be as good as you are. Everyone has upside and potential, but there were many years when we were the smallest, weakest and slowest team.”
After a standout high school career with the Big Blue – which earned him a place in the Swampscott High Hall of Fame – Adams went on to star as an offensive lineman at Holy Cross. He then stepped up to the NFL, playing for the Buffalo Bills for seven years.
He began his coaching career for a season at Bishop Fenwick before coming to Lynnfield as an assistant in 1980. He took over as head coach from Bill Rodan in 1985. Adams stepped down in 1994 after 10 seasons and returned in 2000 for eight more years before hanging up his whistle for good following the 2007 season. Over the years, Adams coached the Agganis Game (four times), the Shriners game, and was named Boston Globe Coach of the Year.
“This is a great honor and thrill,” Adams summed up.