Coach Bill Squires died on June 30 at age 89. He was one of the greats on a par with distance coaching peers such as Bill Bowerman and Arthur Lydiard. He was also a mentor and dear friend.
I had the privilege of attending his cross country camp at Stonehill College as a high school senior in August 1973. He inspired me to increase my mileage and love those 16-mile Sunday runs that helped me finish second in our tough Private School Athletic League meet later that autumn. Months later I ran two marathons in a span of less than a month, including Boston, all because of his cheerful guidance.
He was running’s Casey Stengel, possessed of the colorful repartee and quick wit he displayed while pulling off a remarkable run of success at Boston State College, where, without a track, and a stunning lack of resources, won countless conference titles and mentored many All Americans. A typical team from the seventies featured runners of all shapes, sizes, and colors and blended raw 17-year-olds with 25-year-olds fresh from active combat duty in Vietnam.
As coach of the Greater Boston Track Club his legend became a national and international phenomenon as he guided the likes of Jack MacDonald, Bill Rodgers, Randy Thomas, Alberto Salazar, Greg Meyer, Dan Dillon, Vin Fleming, Dick Mahoney, Bob Hall, Pete Pfitzinger, Bob Hodge, Dave McGillivray, and my college teammate Paul Oparowski among many others. He also coached Dick Beardsley, he of the famed “Duel in the sun” with Salazar at Boston in 1982.
Coach wrote the book on the history of distance running for Stephen Greene Press as well as a brilliant technical coaching treatise with protege and former BU head track coach Bruce Lehane.
His legacy has been especially well served in a superb biography entitled “Born to Coach” by Paul Clerici.
I always thought of him when driving through toll booths recalling the tales of his Bo State athletes jumping out of cars and vans to scoop the quarters from the pavement that had missed the automatic toll baskets. Ditto when dining in a restaurant where guests sing Happy Birthday as wait staff deliver a cake or cupcake. Needless to say, not a road stop passed for the coach and his team where one of his athletes wasn’t celebrating a “birthday “ that had the coach request a little complimentary something for “one, or maybe all of my boys.”
He’ll be missed by the legion of athletes fortunate enough to have absorbed his wit and wisdom. He was funny and kind and happy to help even a guppy/ham and egger such as me. The 89-year notch marked the finish line of a gloriously long run that put the tiger in the tank of so many of us.
He used to call me “Bates” because of my college choice and the last time we conversed was at the BAA’s 125th anniversary celebration where we speculated that one way that American runners could catch up to the Kenyans and Ethiopians would be to get Dunkin Donuts and McDonald’s to open more outlets in those countries. Silly stuff and the sort of nonsense one would discuss in the midst of one of those long Sunday runs he loved so dearly.
If I could, I’d tell St Peter it’s your birthday!