In the days before the running boom, when running truly was an amateur game, the horizon for a post-collegiate athlete was always close at hand. Once college eligibility ran out, even a top-end career lasted, generally speaking, through the first post-graduate Olympic cycle before the responsibilities of life took precedence. Few athletes could explore their athletic peaks through their late 20s, early 30s. There was no system in place for a post-collegiate athlete to adopt.
One year after the 1972 Munich Games, however, a small group of dedicated post-collegiate runners in Boston met at the Roberts Center on the campus of Boston College and formed what came to be (arguably) the best distance running club in the nation. But what they needed more than members was a coach.
The man they asked to write their workouts was a 40-year-old native of Arlington, Mass. who had been an All-American miler at Notre Dame and currently was the eccentric but highly regarded track and cross-country coach at Boston State College. His name was Bill Squires.
Over the next decade, the red-and-white GBTC singlet instilled both respect and fear in the hearts of its opponents. Names like Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar, Greg Meyer, Bobby Hodge, Randy Thomas, Vinnie Fleming, Dick Mahoney, and many, many more stood atop podiums at races all over the country and world.
Yesterday, two dozen of Coach Squires’ minions from GBTC and Boston State got together on a Zoom call to say thanks again and to celebrate the coach’s 88th birthday. His influence upon each of his athletes was foundational and lifelong.
Charismatic and confusing, confident and meandering, Coach Squires was and remains driven by his love for the sport and those who practice its arts. Over a brilliant career, he came to be recognized as one of America’s greatest distance coaches ever.
Once you came to decipher the particular peculiarities of his accent and stream-of-consciousness pronouncements, there was no end to his wit and wisdom. Here are just a few of the memories shared:
Bill Rodgers (4x Boston & NYC Marathon champion, 3x world No. 1): “We all benefited from knowing Bill. We all love the sport and we got that from Coach. I still think he’s one of the greatest coaches in the country.”
Pat Doherty, Boston State, Class of ‘76: “It was never about you, always about us. You always told us, “get your degree and get the hell out of here.”
Alberto Salazar, 3x NYC and 1982 Boston Marathon champion: “I was just a scrawny little sophomore in high school when Kirk Pfrangle asked if I wanted to do workouts with the Greater Boston team. My father thought Kirk and Coach Squires were Castro agents, so he wanted to talk to Kirk first. It took me a while to figure out what Coach was telling me – and it was all done on napkins – but when I didn’t know where life would go, you and the Greater Boston Track Club were so nice and hospitable. You taught me the greatest thing was to help other people. You always had a helping hand out when anyone had a need.”
Dick Mahoney, 10th place 1979 Boston Marathon: “I think back to the beginning of the GBTC at our first meeting at Boston College. At the end of the night, for you to say that you would come and coach us, I think back and remember how much it meant to us. And then my first marathon was in Buffalo and you said I could run 2:17, and that would win it. And it did. Unfortunately, it wasn’t me. I blew up at 21 miles. But just a few months later I ran 2:14 at Boston. During workouts, Al and I would always tangle feet and you said “if you trip him, you’re off the team.”
Don Ricciato, Co-founder, GBTC: “Coach, it’s hard to believe you’re 88. Thank you for the opportunity you gave us to compete after college. You always sacrificed for us. When our first 2-mile relay team had to share a room at the Penn Relays, you slept on the floor so we could have the beds.”
John “Jocko” Connelly, Boston Herald sportswriter, Boston State grad: “I would like to thank you on behalf of all your runners. Your number one advice, always have a Plan B. And because of that, we never panicked. You taught us to rely on our Plan B.”
Wayne Frongello, Boston State, Class of ‘73: “You took me places I couldn’t imagine. You enabled me to dream.”
Tom Grilk, CEO, Boston Athletic Association, Ex-President, GBTC: “When we had our first race to raise money for the club, you were a race marshal for the original Freedom Trail Road Race. And we stationed you along the Central Artery stopping traffic, much of it on its way to Logan Airport. And you were assaulted by a lady with an umbrella. But you held your ground. From one Wakefield Warrior to another, happy birthday. (Coach Squires once taught science at Wakefield HS when Grilk was a guppy.
Dave McGillivray, race director, Boston Marathon: “The first time we met, Freddie Doyle introduced us at a Boston College workout. And I remember wanting so much to make the club. And Freddy said, “here’s Dave, he just finished running across the country. And you said “well, I guess you’ve got a good base.” And one thing you said that stuck with me. You said to run eight repeat miles on the track. And the average time for those 8 miles, it’s 30-seconds per mile slower pace that you can run for a marathon. You were a genius, you knew exactly what you were talking about.”
Greg Meyer, 1983 Boston Marathon champion: “When I first got to Boston (from Michigan) I thought you were crazy. And it proved true. But you changed our lives because you taught us beyond the sport. But I also remember the time you talked (first wife) Paula and I to go to a strip club. I don’t know how you did it, but you had the gift.”
Randy Thomas, 5th, 1979 Boston Marathon, long-time Boston College coach: “GBTC was always a family thanks to Jack Mac and Coach Squires. Bill was the most giving person I ever met. You would hear stories all the time about Boston State kids who didn’t have money for their next textbook. And it was uncanny how each year the coach would reach into his pocket for a $20 bill to help.”
Amby Burfoot, 1968 Boston Marathon champion, former editor-in-chief, Runners World Magazine: “Everyone always thought that I was from Boston, but I was just a little bit south in New London, Connecticut. But all you guys represented something, the original blue-collar, working-class running club. You showed the power of the club and the passion with a brilliant but eccentric coach. So here’s a birthday toast, Coach. I think of Don Kardong’s immortal words, ‘every runner feels the need to end the week with a round number, so they try to hit 100 miles.’ Well, 88 is way rounder than 100. Hope it’s a great birthday year for you.”
Freddie Doyle, meeting co-chair, GBTC stalwart: “Nobody else could’ve gotten this group together tonight. It’s a testament to you, Coach. Thanks for the years of wisdom, advice, and inspiration. We always enjoyed your sense of humor and part of it was to take our minds off the difficulty of the workout you gave us. Also, thank you for all the money making tips. There’s not a toll booth I don’t go by that I don’t look down for loose quarters. And I can’t go into any restaurant without thinking about “Miss Melrose of 1974”. When off the clock, it was your personality that brought us together.”
Mark Duggan, meeting co-chair, Boston State and GBTC: “We usually we get together with the coach every few weeks where the western omelette is the entrée of choice. We’re hoping to find a new dining establishment and a new entrée as Coach usually only ate the eastern half of his western omelette. But coach, you always taught us how to get through adversity. Like when we had a flat tire on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and how we had to push the car to get to the place to get a new tire. We never forget those lessons, finding ways of getting things done.”
A Bill Squires Track Legacy Fund has been established to help promising young runners who have already survived year one in college, but need help as he/she heads into their sophomore year. Please send donations to, 26 Oak Ridge Road, Reading, MA 01867 (this is 501c3). Donations of any amount will be received gratefully.
On to 89, Coach. Love from us all.