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Legendary Jesuit coach Bill Minahan dead at 84

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Mon. December 30, 2013 | Joey Knight | Email

Legendary Jesuit coach Bill Minahan dead at 84

TAMPA  He earned his moniker honestly. "Wild" Bill Minahan's bark was passionate, piercing, even occasionally profane. Depending on the recipient, it could irritate, intimidate or initiate.

But mostly, it inspired. Just ask any Jesuit High alumnus who would give his letterman's jacket this morning to hear just one more "Wild Bill" diatribe.

"Other than my own father, the greatest man I have ever known," Plant football coach and Jesuit alumnus Robert Weiner said.

A Marine and former University of Tampa quarterback who coached Jesuit to the 1968 Class A state title, Mr. Minahan died Monday evening at Tampa General Hospital at 84.

The kidney he had received via transplant nearly 28 years before finally had failed him after a recent blood cancer diagnosis.

"He lived a great life," said Billy Minahan, one of his three children. "It was just time. He was worn out. He's resting now and he doesn't have to worry about doing any machines, dialysis, or taking medication."

When kidney problems forced him to retire as Jesuit coach in 1985, Mr. Minahan had established himself as a local prep sports icon, with coaching stops at Plant, Jefferson and Jesuit.

His influence seemingly reached every nook of the area.

Venture anywhere locally, from Seffner to South Tampa, from the kitchens at Columbia Restaurant to the sidewalks of Bayshore Boulevard, and you're bound to find a coach, business owner or executive proudly proclaiming himself a Minahan disciple.

"He inspired me," said Mike Boza, who played three seasons of football for Mr. Minahan, succeeded him as Jesuit athletic director, and later won four state titles as Tigers cross country coach.

"He caught most of us at an age in our lives when we were trying to form into something. Many of us were looking for some direction and he gave it to us. It's something usually only a father can do, but for a lot of boys that's not always possible for different reasons.

"He did it for hundreds, maybe thousands."

Though innovative strategically, especially with the forward pass and his employment of tight ends, Mr. Minahan's greatest strength was his ability to motivate.

Even with his growl and trademark flat-top haircut, he possessed a gift for endearing himself to kids instead of running them off. Survivors earned a patriarch for life. You earned a spot on Mr. Minahan's roster, you earned a spot in his heart. Forever.

"Everybody loved to play for him," said Berkeley Prep coach Dominick Ciao, who joined Minahan's staff as a green offensive line assistant in 1979 and replaced him as coach seven years later.

"He could get the most out of his players and coaches because no one ever wanted to let him down. Because they loved him so much."

In 20 seasons at Jesuit, he compiled a 132-78-2 mark, highlighted by the 39-25 victory against Lakeland Kathleen in the '68 Clas A state final at old Tampa Stadium — the first football title for Hillsborough County and first in the Tampa Bay area.

Upon leaving coaching, he channeled his energies into championing organ donation and badminton, ultimately winning four golds in the sport at the U.S. Transplant Games. Eventually, he was inducted into four different athletic halls of fame.

He also remained highly visible at Jesuit and later Plant, where he had coached early in his career. The current Panthers staff is rife with Minahan proteges including Weiner, defensive coordinator John Few and the younger Billy Minahan.

"Very few people in this world live what they preach; God first, respect all, live life to the fullest andlet those you love know it," Few said. "He was in a position to touch thousands of lives and he did."

In addition to his three children, Mr. Minahan  born May  2, 1929 in Johnstown, Pa.  is survived by his wife of 28 years, Martha, a former Jesuit geometry teacher.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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