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Frank DeFelice coached baseball, football and other sports for 52 years.
By STEVE KRAUSE
SWAMPSCOTT — One of the longest-standing and most illustrious eras in Massachusetts coaching history will end this spring when Frank DeFelice steps down as an assistant baseball coach at Endicott College in Beverly.
DeFelice, who told Coach Bryan Haley of his decision to retire Wednesday, will close the book on a 52-year career as a coach in various schools in both football and baseball that took him from Christopher Columbus High School in Boston all the way to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
Along the way, DeFelice, of Swampscott, coached two of the best athletes the state has ever seen — Dick Jauron and Doug Flutie — and was inducted into the Massachusetts State Baseball Coaches’ Hall of Fame.
“I felt it was time,” said DeFelice, who is 76. “It was awfully tough making the decision. (Endicott) is a great school, and it’s a great (baseball) program.”
He’s not quite ready to ride off into the sunset. He just wants to be able to do what he does on his own terms.
“I’ll still be around the program,” he said.
DeFelice spent the majority of his coaching years — 40 — at Swampscott High. He had two stints as a baseball coach (1966-71 and 1977-2005), winning 465 games while losing 257 (.644 percentage). In the state tournaments, his teams were tougher, with 45 wins in 65 games (.692). And in 1993, the Big Blue won the Division 3 state championship.
But baseball only tells half the story. He was an assistant football coach during Swampscott’s golden era, working alongside the likes of fellow assistant Dick Lynch and under the legendary head coach Stan Bondelevitch. Included among the players he coached was a who’s who of the town’s athletic luminaries — Bill Adams, Tom Toner, Mike Lynch, Sandy Tennant and Jauron (who became an all-pro safety with the Detroit Lions, and NFL Coach of the Year with the Chicago Bears, and a college football hall of famer).
Later, he was an assistant at Boston College, a job that took him to Miami in November 1984, where he had a sideline view of Flutie’s “Hail Mary” pass to Gerard Phelan that defeated the Hurricanes. On Jan. 1, 1985, he was in Dallas to help coach the Eagles to their Cotton Bowl victory over Houston.
“I consider myself very fortunate,” DeFelice said, “to have been around two of the greatest athletes you will ever see — Dick Jauron and Doug Flutie.”
DeFelice considers himself fortunate for a lot of what has come his way in life.
“I had great mentors, beginning with my brother, Bobby,’’ he said. “I coached with him in 1965 at Christopher Columbus High School in Boston.
“Then, I went to Swampscott and became associated with Dick Lynch and Stan, both outstanding men, and great mentors. They were hard-nosed men who preached discipline, and they were smart.”
DeFelice also had plenty of admiration for the students he coached.
“I think the words ‘student-athlete’ are tossed around way too much,” he said. “But in Swampscott, back then, we had real student-athletes.
“Dick Jauron went to Yale. Carl Kester went to Amherst and he’s now a professor at Harvard. Sandy Tennant went to Harvard. Mike Lynch and Andy Rose, Harvard. Bill Adams went to Holy Cross. There were so many from that era.”
There was a similar situation with DeFelice’s 1993 baseball team that won a state title.
“Peter Woodfork, who was an underclassman, knew more about baseball at his age than most of us, and he went to Harvard,” said DeFelice. “We had two pitchers (Kevin Rogers and Brian Hayes) who didn’t lose a game.”
Other players on that team went onto have successful college careers, such as Brendan Nolan (BC) and Traeger DiPietro (who played at New Hampshire until the school discontinued baseball).
DeFelice also served as head football coach at Swampscott (1977-81) and Xaverian (1972-76). He was also an assistant basketball and track coach at Swampscott. He had been on the baseball staff at Endicott for the past six years.