After more than 60 years of combined service to the school, two Canisius High School legends are retiring from coaching.
Baseball coach Connie McGillicuddy and football coach Bus Werder -- a pair of 68-year-young Canisius graduates -- have decided to leave their posts.
"This is going to be very different," said Jim Skipper, Canisius' athletic director. "They have some unbelievable stories. You don't want to close these chapters. You want to keep the pages open."
When the history books are written, they'll show McGillicuddy as holder of more than 700 varsity victories in 22 years as a basketball coach (1956-1978) and 25 years as a baseball coach (1966-1990).
Werder took over the football program from another legend, all-time state victory leader Johnny Barnes, and won five straight Msgr. Martin Association titles in 1973-77. In the process, the Crusaders compiled a 43-game unbeaten streak, a Western New York record that still stands.
"That interaction of the students is what I miss the most after 44 years in the classroom (1944-1988, when he taught math, English and Latin)," said McGillicuddy. "Now, I'll miss that roller coaster of emotions getting ready for the season, for each game, for the playoffs."
McGillicuddy, known to all at the school as "Mr. Mack," was graduated from Canisius in 1939. His coaching career began with the junior varsity football team in 1952.
His success continued through last season, when his team made it to the Georgetown Cup championship game before losing in extra innings to St. Francis.
McGillicuddy won seven Georgetown Cups in nine tries, the last victory coming in 1988 over Timon. Canisius took that game, 2-1, despite being no-hit by Timon pitcher Tom Rybak.
"That was definitely one of the big highlights," McGillicuddy said. "Bus' son (Matt) was on that team and it was the first high school game played at Pilot Field. For the seniors, it was also graduation day. They had to go right from Pilot back here to school for the ceremony.
"What I'll always remember was that the captains (Mike Hohl and Tim Rine) insisted the trophy be brought into the graduation. They set it on the stage and, as part of the commencement exercises, we made another presentation of the Cup in front of the whole school."
Aside from his coaching victories, McGillicuddy has accrued a slew of other honors. He is an honorary life member of the Western New York Football Officials Association and a member of the area's basketball officials hall of fame.
In addition, he has been the head statistician for the Buffalo Bills since their inception and has missed only one game in 31 seasons. That was a 1963 playoff game during which he was coaching the basketball team at a New York City tournament.
Werder, whose real name is Richard, has been known as "Bus" or "Buster" since his infancy, when a hospital nurse brought him to his mother and said, "Isn't he a Buster?"
The 1941 Canisius grad leaves with the admiration of the school after agreeing in 1988 to come out of an 11-year retirement in an attempt to breath life into a sagging football program.
Results often were spotty, as this year's 1-8 record would attest, but Skipper said an attitude transfusion and a championship junior varsity program have been a result of Werder's leadership.
"I can't imagine anyone doing a better job," Skipper said. "We would get beat big on Saturday and on Monday there would be a lot of smiling and enthusiasm at practice because those kids felt they could win the next Saturday. That means somebody is doing something right."
"I came back to help them restore the tradition and put pride back in the program," Werder said. "It seemed to deteriorate in the early '80s. I felt if I could impart a little drive and really arouse the spirit we always had here, I would be doing a good job."
No replacements have been named for either coach, and Skipper said he will be accepting resumes for both positions until Dec. 22.
The retirements from coaching will not be quiet for either man. Werder, who still dabbles in real estate work, says he's looking forward to watching Matt play football next year for the University at Buffalo. McGillicuddy will continue in his role as the school's alumni moderator, working on fund-raising and class reunions.
"I'll still be around," McGillicuddy said. "Most people here 15, 20, 30 years ago are no longer here. People tell me I'm a 'walking information booth' because I know all these people who come back. It's the people that make the school here."