Paul Lane and Albie Loeffler retired decades ago.
But both men — longtime Staples High School coaches, physical education instructors and friends — are back in the news again.
Lane — one of Staples’ legendary football coaches — was honored at last week’s game against Norwalk.
Between 1962 and 1987, Lane led the Wreckers to 4 FCIAC Eastern Division championships, 2 FCIAC crowns, and 122 victories. His 11-0 1975 squad was the last single state champion — determined by sportswriters — before the current playoff system began.
In the 1967 FCIAC title game, Staples snapped Stamford Catholic’s 30-game win streak, 8-0. The Crusaders — ranked #1 in Connecticut – had outscored their opponents 333-66. The Wreckers stopped them twice on the goal line, in the last quarter.
Lane started coaching football in the Army in 1950. He then served as an assistant to Frank Dornfeld for 8 years, before taking over the top job.
At Staples, Lane also won state championships coaching indoor and outdoor track — and girls golf.
He grew up in Bethel, but his family has long ties to Westport. He’s been a Compo Beach resident nearly all his adult life. Former players — and of course his sons Skip and Peter, both of whom played for him — often drop by to chat with their former coach.
Last week on the football field, Lane was introduced with a video produced by Justin Nadal and Staples’ media lab. Then he shook hands with coaches and players, stood beside the team for the national anthem, and headed to the 50-yard line for the coin toss.
This week also saw the announcement that Loeffler — who, with Lane, co-owned a summer sports camp for Westport youngsters in the 1950s and ’60s — has been selected for the United Soccer Coaches Hall of Fame. He’ll be inducted at the organization’s annual convention in Chicago this January.
Loeffler joins 62 other major contributors to the game. The Hall of Fame already includes legends like former men’s national team and University of Virginia coach Bruce Arena, women’s national team and University of North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance, and University of Connecticut coach Joe Morrone (with whom Loeffler co-founded the Connecticut Junior Soccer Association).
Loeffler — who died the day before his 94th birthday in 2009 — was a goalkeeper at the University of Connecticut. He began his coaching career in South Windsor (1942-52), where he won 2 state championships.
He came to Staples in 1952, teaching phys. ed. and coaching basketball, baseball and track. In 1957 he formed a club soccer team. The next year it earned varsity status.
His Staples record includes 12 FCIAC titles and 7 state championships — 5 of them in a row. His teams recorded 25 consecutive shutouts (including post-season tournament games), won or tied 43 straight matches, and lost just 2 home games between 1966 and 1974. When he retired in 1978, his 314 career wins was a national record.
Loeffler was a 2-time National Coach of the Year. More than 175 athletes went on to play college soccer; 11 became All-Americans.
In 1998, the soccer field at Staples was named in his honor. Earlier this month, it was the site of the program’s 60th anniversary celebration.
Loeffler’s daughter and grandson will accept his posthumous award in Chicago.
I’ll be there too. Albie Loeffler was my mentor. I played for him. He got me involved in coaching — and in the United Soccer Coaches organization. He was an original member when it was formed (as the National Soccer Coaches Association of America) in 1941.
I am honored to have known Albie Loeffler. I’m glad I’ve continued my long friendship with Paul Lane.
And I’m proud that both men are back in the headlines, in the town where they influenced countless lives.