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Title-winning former Jesuit coach Minihan dies at 84

Bill Minahan’s Jesuit team won the 1968 Class A state football title, the first for Tampa Bay.

Bill Minahan’s Jesuit team won the 1968 Class A state football title, the first for Tampa Bay.

TAMPA — He earned his moniker honestly. "Wild" Bill Minahan's bark was passionate, piercing, 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 — born May 2, 1929 in Johnstown, Pa. — 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.

"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 in the passing game and the use of tight ends, Mr. Minahan's greatest strength was his ability to motivate.

Even with his growl and flat-top haircut, he possessed a gift for endearing himself to kids instead of running them off. Survivors earned a patriarch for life.

"Everybody loved to play for him," said Berkeley Prep coach Dominick Ciao, who joined Mr. Minahan's staff as an 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, Mr. Minahan was 132-78-2, highlighted by the 39-25 victory against Lakeland Kathleen in the '68 Class A state final at old Tampa Stadium — the first football title for Hillsborough County and first in the Tampa Bay area.

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

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

Mr. Minahan is survived by his wife of 28 years, Martha, a former Jesuit geometry teacher, and children. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Title-winning former Jesuit coach Minihan dies at 84 12/30/13 [Last modified: Monday, December 30, 2013 11:14pm]
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