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Jay Paris: A ‘Pirate through and through’: Carroll sings the praises of his successor

Coach John Carroll spoke and why put your trust elsewhere?

“He’s a true Pirate,’’ Carroll said. “He loves Oceanside and always has.’’

Here’s where we circle back and remove “coach” from John Carroll’s moniker. I’m not sure I want to.

Carroll, the legendary Oceanside coach, has retried.

But he wouldn’t rest until the iconic program he built was in solid hands.

We introduce David Rodriguez, Carroll’s successor and the subject of his praises.

“He is a really good man,’’ Carroll said.

Good for Oceanside.

There’s few prep athletic programs in the county — maybe the nation — which possess what Oceanside owns.

It’s football on Friday nights and we get that. But there’s more.

“He totally gets the sense of family and tradition with Oceanside football,’’ Carroll said. “He knows about that connection to the past.’’

Maybe because he was part of it. Rodriguez was an Oceanside assistant from 1995-2002 before leaving for Arizona.

“He didn’t leave for greener pastures, he left because of his family,’’ Carroll said.

“He didn’t want to leave in the first place and now he has returned to greener pastures.’’

He comes back with head-coaching experience, after three stops in the Tucson area.

Gonzalez directed Sahuarita High School the past four seasons to a 36-9 mark. Last year Sahuarita went 12-1, with Gonzalez named Arizona’s prep coach of the year.

“It’s bittersweet for me and the players because we had something special here,’’ Gonzalez said by phone, between history classes he teaches. “None the less, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to head back to Oceanside and also to follow in the footsteps of someone I consider my greatest football mentor, John Carroll. It is just an amazing chance and an opportunity I just could not pass up.’’

Then one looks up at what Carroll has done in 26 seasons: won 13 CIF San Diego Section titles, two state championships and a stunning 21 straight showings in the section semifinals.

Is Gonzalez sure he wants a bite of this apple? Ever hear of Gene Bartow, the coach replacing John Wooden at UCLA?

Gonzalez has, and he takes Carroll’s position with determination, energy and perspective.

“If you try and replicate what John Wooden did you are going to fall short because there will never be another John Wooden,’’ he said.

Rodriguez, 45, is his own man, but if he borrows from Carroll, what’s the harm?

“We are going to respect and honor what has been created and we’re excited to take Pirate football into this new era,’’ Rodriguez said. “Guys come and go but the tradition and standard stay the same.’’

While Carroll’s name is mentioned in reverence, what he preached wasn’t that innovative. It was work, work and work, with the journey always determining the destination.

“It’s the grind,’’ Rodriguez said. “That is what he is legendary for, his amazing attention to detail and the preparation part of it.’’

The part, though, Rodriguez mentioned repeatedly was his mission for the players, which extends past the sidelines. It’s the chance to turn teenagers into men, and is there a greater calling in life?

“It’s really a laboratory to teach young people,’’ Gonzalez said. “I know it sounds corny and cliché, but it is a chance to take young people and teach them the time-honored lessons we were all taught and prepare them for the life that they will have.

“Teach them how to show up on time, how to aspire to be successful, how to overcome adversity and how to be a productive member of your community.’’

Carroll won’t predict how Rodriguez will fare. But it’s a fair assumption he couldn’t be happier and it has nothing to do with Gonzalez’s offensive and defensive schemes.

“How he does as Oceanside’s head football coach, no one know can say,’’ said Carroll, who went 28-75-6.

“But unquestionably he is a Pirate, through and through, and a very, very good man. Any mother out there worried about their son being taken care of properly just had that answered in the positive.’’

In Carroll we trust.

Contact Jay Paris at Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports and at

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