The staggering total of wins easily comes to mind when remembering the coaching genius of Russ Spicer, but what really stood out during a career that spanned more than four decades was the relationships and the impact he had on those he guided.
And isn't that the true measure of a coach, somebody who can have a positive impact on those who he is in charge leading?
Spicer, who died Tuesday at the age of 87, will forever be remembered for not only winning games but shaping lives.
Those who played for him in football or baseball still live today by the ideals he taught them.
"He was one of my heroes," said Joe Hartmann, a 1949 graduate of Haddonfield who played on Spicer's first baseball team for the Bulldogs and has run the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic tournament for the last 36 years. "He touched a lot of people's lives."
While he touched lives, Spicer also had the ability to beat the opposition. As the head coach of Haddonfield's football team from 1953 to 1973, he went 123-57-8.
It was in baseball where Spicer truly gained a reputation as one of the all-time greats. He went 603-287 in 42 seasons of coaching high school at Haddonfield, Moorestown, and Paulsboro. (He also coached one game at Cinnaminson before giving up the job for health reasons.) Spicer also was a head coach for two seasons at Rutgers-Camden.
The wins were secondary to the influence he had, which is why so many of his ex-players went into coaching.
"He was probably the most influential guy in my entire life," said Jon Batchelor, a 1955 Haddonfield graduate who played football and baseball for Spicer.
Batchelor himself became an outstanding football head coach, first at Woodrow Wilson and then at Eastern.
A Haddonfield resident, Batchelor stayed in constant contact with Spicer.
"I tried to emulate him in coaching but I was never able to," Batchelor said. "I always had highs and lows and he was always able to stay in the middle and that was a gift."
Chris Spicer, one of the two sons of Russ and Kay, not only played for his father in both sports, but succeeded him as a coach.
A 1966 graduate of Haddonfield, Chris served as Haddonfield's baseball coach from 1979-83.
One of Chris' best friends was Doug Clevenger, who played baseball and football for Spicer at Haddonfield and was a basketball star. Clevenger ended up scoring 1,031 career points at West Point, playing for a pretty fair coach named Bobby Knight.
"Doug always told me that my dad prepared him as well as Coach Knight," Chris Spicer said.
Besides all the preparation and winning, Chris was heartened throughout the years to see what a positive impact his father had on those he coached.
"He obviously took a lot of pride in his record, but he also took a great deal of satisfaction in his relationship with his players," Chris Spicer said. "Throughout the years, he had many ex-players call him and ask him for advice and he really enjoyed that."
The advice would be on a variety of topics, and Russ Spicer was able to impart his wisdom.
That is why he will be remembered so fondly, a true coach who did some of his best mentoring far away from the playing field.
Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.