'It went from enjoyable to work'
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The rigors of putting together a state-championship-caliber boys soccer team at Hurricane High School year in and year out finally took its toll on Jim Dagostine.
The 65-year-old coach, who spent seven years guiding the Redskins to unprecedented heights that peaked with last year's Class AAA state championship, turned in his resignation the week before the June three-week practice period began.
"I've given my very best almost daily,'' said Dagostine, who began coaching when he was 21 at Poca High and has taken six different sports teams to the state tournament. "It's been a 365-day-a-year job for me. There were very few days I didn't do something that was involved with that job.
"We would be done [with the season] in November. We would start weights three days a week in December. Then when June practice hit, for me that was it. We practiced the three weeks and then we ran five days a week until the season started. My season was actually June, July, August, September, October and November. It wore on you.''
"The last few years [winning a state championship] almost became an obsession. When the Lord blessed us with a state championship it just became a relief. I always enjoyed preparing and all the other things. The games weren't fun for me. It went from enjoyable to work.''
Dagostine also said that his priorities in life had always been God, family, coaching and players, and that order has been skewed the last few years.
He is the grandfather of five: Owen Dagostine, 23, Boston Caruthers, 12, Xavier Caruthers, 10, Andrew Dagostine, 16, and Christian Dagostine, 8, and would like to spend more time with them. Jim Dagostine also has a son, Tim Dagostine, and daughter, Tiffani Caruthers.
"I'm sorry to say I haven't always had them in the right order,'' he said. "My grandkids have seen my teams play more than I've seen them. I'm not proud of that. I'm not saying I'm quitting coaching. I'm saying for right now I need to get some priorities in order.''
Hurricane saw its program blossom under Dagostine like never before. His first team in 2006 posted an 11-8-2 record, which was only the second double-digit win total in the 15 seasons prior.
He posted a 127-22-12 record for an .826 winning percentage and led Hurricane to the Class AAA state tournament four times, including the school's first state title last year. The Redskins also advanced to the title game in 2007 and the state semis in 2010 and 2011.
Hurricane's 2009 squad finished the regular season ranked No. 11 by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and No. 44 in the ESPN Rise Fab 50. The Redskins, who lost to Huntington 2-1 in the sectional tournament and finished with a 20-1 mark, did not allow a goal in more than 1,600 minutes, the longest such streak in the nation that season among teams that competed in the fall.
Hurricane racked up four 20-win seasons and three unbeaten regular seasons. The Redskins also captured four regional titles and two Mountain State Athletic Conference crowns (2009 and 2012) and competed in two other MSAC title games.
The Redskins had 22 players earn first-team all-state honors from the state coaches association and currently have nine playing in college in either NCAA Division I (three) or II (six).
Dagostine was named the National Federation Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 2008. He also led the Hurricane Middle School program for eight seasons prior to coming to the high school.
Hurricane High also saw its soccer complex come to fruition under Dagostine with the construction of game and practice fields with bleachers and locker room facilities, which also benefited the girls program.
"When I first took the job at the first meeting I said we would try and do three things,'' Dagostine said. "We'd build a first-class facility, we would take care of the players the best that we could, and that we would be competitive with the best teams in the state.
"The facilities are an ongoing thing, but quite frankly I think we have the best on-campus facility in the state when you consider the playing surface, practice field and dressing facility. It was done from scratch. Our players have six different uniform combinations.''
Dagostine has been a lightning rod for criticism the last several seasons for using what opposing coaches and parents saw as an inordinate number of foreign-exchange students.
"It was disappointing some of the things that were said and done,'' said Dagostine. "To not shake those kids' hand or to not give credit, that's disappointing.
"A kid can choose in ninth grade where he wants to go. If that's out there ... I didn't say anything when a kid was starting for us went to Winfield and then started his junior and senior year. To see [our players] put those things aside to make things work was one of the neatest things I've been involved in.''
Dagostine said he's thankful for all the support he received while at Hurricane.
"This wasn't about me,'' he said. "There are so many other people involved. I want to thank my Lord for giving me some good opportunities and putting me with some good people. I've made a lot of friends. I always got satisfaction out of working with the kids and seeing their success.''
Derek Ragle, a former Hurricane High player and Dagostine assistant for three years, has been hired to take over the program. Ragle guided George Washington to last year's AAA girls state title game in his first season.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.