New Orleans-- He was one of the most beloved high school coaches in the New Orleans area. Rick Gaille was a fighter-- from rebuilding a losing St. James football program, to a fight with cancer, which he ultimately lost Sunday afternoon at the age of 67.
In 1992, Gaille became the head coach at St. James High School. In an interview that season, Gaille was brimming with optimism:
"We had a community that had their head down," Gaille said then. "They had lost their pride because football and athletics mean a great deal to the community."
The optimism was well-founded. In 19 seasons, St. James won 169 games, reached the semifinals 8 times, and the state finals 3 times. Gaille said lots has changed since-- especially on offense.
"It was felt at that time that if you were an option quarterback that you were not going to be a very good thrower," said the late Gaille. "If you were a thrower you couldn't run the option and if you couldn't do either then you ran a power game. And now, everybody's got a combination of each."
Gaille was most recently spending his Friday nights as an analyst on Ken Trahan's Original Prep Football Report. He loved the game but he said recently that the culture around it had brought unwanted influence.
"I'm going to do what I want to do regardless of the price I have to pay and regardless of the price of those around me have to pay," Gaille said. "You've got a generation of young adults now and kids that pierce themselves willingly-- pierce, tattoo, gauge, whatever themselves willingly so if they're willing to put-up with that amount of pain just for decoration, how much can you punish them to get them to do what they need to do?"
Gaille said one of the things that confounds him is the attention paid to wide receivers.
"They used to be just people you keep over there and if they had an opinion, nobody really cared about it anymore," Gaille said. "But if you look at professional sports and how much time is spend interviewing wide receivers and getting their opinions on things, that's a big concern."
He said the trash-talking in today's football is not good for the game. But he knows what is. That is hiring good football coaches and keeping them in schools. He said good coaches with roots will attract students to the game. And he decries what he calls 'administrations that don't see the value of athletics.'
"Ones that look at themselves somewhat as elite in the educational process and know nothing about leadership, nothing about organization, nothing about planning, very little really about teaching that they went into the education profession to become professional administrators," Gaille said "And most of that group knows nothing about athletics other than that they are to be tolerated."