This Saturday, November 24th, friends of Coach Bill Squires will gather at Boston College – Cocoran Commons – from noon till 3 pm for an 80th birthday celebration. From far out on the California coast, a toast and fond salute to the coach who famously led Boston State College and the Greater Boston Track Club during a career that carried many a runner and team to national and international titles, all with no budget or home track, while revolutionizing marathon training with athletes like Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar, Greg Meyer and Dick Beardsley.
But it wasn’t the Xs and Os of his training programs that made Coach Squires a New England and running legend, or that made him the recipient of the Bill Bowerman Award from the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in 2002. It was much more than what he said.
How to best explain it?
Well, I guess I could go back to the early `80s and take you on the drive with the coach and New Zealand Olympian Kevin Ryan as we headed from Boston to New York for the Millrose Games, the drive that got the coach talking about his “date” with Hollywood starlet Natalie Wood – or as coach called her, “Natley”, in his clipped Arlington, Mass. born accent.
As the coach told it, the date had been arranged by Photo Play, or some such Hollywood magazine. Squires was a miler at Notre Dame at the time, and he and another athlete in L.A. for the NCAA Championships were to escort Ms. Wood and Annette Funicello, the ex-Mousketeer, on a date for publicity purposes.
I could go on and tell you about Coach’s reaction after Kevin Ryan caustically remarked from behind the wheel, “Huh. No way a beautiful woman like that would go out with an ugly prick like you,” said as he downed another Foster’s while zooming at 80+ down I-84, and yet uncannily knowing when to slow down for a soon passing state trooper.
“ME-E?!! ” exclaimed the coach riding shotgun, his voice rising two octaves, accent straining in startled indignation. “I was handsome : six feet tall, 160 pounds, blawnnd crew cut hayuh (sic), 100 push ups a day – I had definition in my bawdy! Are you kiddin’ me!!???”
I was left in a puddle of hysterics in the backseat.
Or, I could regale you with Coach’s story (again indignantly told on the same drive) about how he used to pee in his college dorm room sink in the dead of night, because he didn’t want to pad down the hall to the communal men’s room. And how after his roommate complained to the good fathers of Notre Dame about the coach’s indecorous behavior, how the coach proceeded to present a paper at his disciplinary hearing detailing the disinfectant properties of urine as utilized by soldiers in the Boer War as a weapon’s cleaner. And yet, notwithstanding this uncontested testimony, how the coach was firmly instructed never again to use his sink for anything beyond hands and face washing and tooth brushing, and that included no weapon’s cleaning.
Sure, I could do that, but why go back that far? Continue reading