Emphasizing Respect, Class in 46-Year Career at Hun, McQuade Leaving Special Legacy On and Off the Field
POSITIVE IMPACT: Bill McQuade smiles as he surveys the action this spring in his 46th and final season coaching the Hun School baseball program. McQuade announced his retirement from the school early this year after having served as the math department chairman, the Head of the Upper School, and an assistant headmaster for administrative projects in addition to guiding the baseball program. The ebullient and upbeat McQuade is leaving a special legacy on and off the field. He ended his baseball career on a high note, guiding the Raiders to the state Prep A title this May in his final weekend on the job.
At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be anything special about the small office tucked away in a hallway on the first floor of Russell Hall at the Hun School.
But as one walks into the room, it becomes clear that it is a shrine to Hun baseball, with framed photo montages of past teams covering the walls, eight signed bats hanging in one corner, and binders containing decades of team box scores and stats.
Sitting behind the desk in the middle of the memorabilia is Bill McQuade, the driving force of the program for the last 46 seasons. Wearing a golf shirt and casual slacks, McQuade exudes the contented air of one who has recently announced his retirement, having concluded his final season in a blaze of glory as Hun won the state Prep A title.
While the competitive McQuade loves winning, he has focused more on imparting life lessons to his players.
“I think the thing that I am most proud of is the program itself, I think we do it in a classy way, at least we try to,” said McQuade, a spry 68 with a ready smile and distinctive gravelly voice.
“Respect is the key word that I use for everything. In the school, you respect each other. You respect the opponent, you respect the game, first and foremost, so those are life skills. The wins and the losses take care of themselves. It is how do you handle yourself after a win, how do you handle yourself after a loss. I am most proud about that because I think some of the kids will say it wasn’t the lessons they learned about bunt defenses and all that stuff, they learned to be a better person, better teammate.”
Growing up on Jefferson Road in Princeton, McQuade fell in love with sports and came under the influence of some classic coaches in Larry Ivan, Tom Murray, and Norm Van Arsdalen. With that foundation, he went on to star in soccer, basketball, and baseball at Princeton High.
“It was because of Larry Ivan, Tom Murray, and Norm Van Arsdalen, those guys were legends of Princeton sports who just gave to kids,” said McQuade who was inducted into the PHS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.
“I would see them on weekends and in the summer. They were the ones that truly shaped my life about giving back, so coming here, it was what can I do?”
After graduating from Juniata College in 1970, he came to Hun early in 1971 as an intern math teacher and immersed himself in learning how to command the classroom.
“I loved it, being able to sit in on classes and being able to substitute when people were missing,” recalled McQuade, who eventually became the chairman of Hun’s math department before going on to be the head of the Upper School from 1993-2010 and assistant headmaster for administrative projects.
“It really showed me a wide range of the faculty. I got to observe styles and everyone has to have their own style but by watching others, I was sitting there saying that is not me, that is more me.”
As March rolled around that year, McQuade got out to the diamond, becoming an assistant coach of the baseball team.
“It got to the spring and I was under Dave Leete, who was the AD at the time and the head coach in three sports,” said McQuade.
“It was just the two of us. I called plays, I was the third base coach, I moved the fielders around. I was a young guy and energetic and then immediately after the season he turned it over to me.”
For McQuade, coaching was a natural extension of his work in the classroom.
“I think since I was motivated by those who clearly cared about what they taught and how they taught it and the manner they taught it, the coaching is just teaching outdoors, it is the same thing,” said McQuade.
“That is how it was with Larry Ivan and Tom Murray, they are teaching you how to play basketball out there but it was done with respect and they taught you skills. It wasn’t just play the ball and roll the ball out there. It is how you correct them. You show them that you care. With kids and adults, we all like a little pat on the back, sometimes you say that to them and they turn around and it is whoa.”
McQuade acknowledges that he cared too much about getting wins in the beginning of his tenure and decided to modify his approach when his captains came to him to say his love of the game was overwhelming.
“I had to reevaluate; you can still win but you can win by having a lot more fun and keeping everyone involved and happy,” said McQuade, who guided the Raiders to the Prep A title in his first spring at the helm and to a 52-14 record in his first four seasons but has not kept track of his win-loss mark since then as a result of the change in emphasis. “I think we started teaching more about other stuff than the game itself.”
As McQuade took on more administrative responsibility at Hun, he went out of his way to stay involved with students, making coaching baseball and teaching one math class as conditions of him accepting promotions.
“Without a doubt, going down to the field, that is the fun part of the day,” said McQuade.
“If you don’t believe that, I am not really sure how effective someone can be in an administrative role because how else do you find out what is going on. There are different ways to be an administrator but that is my belief. When I got to truly know what makes the kid tick, the better I was with whatever I was doing. My door would literally always be open, kids would walk in, faculty would walk in. I wouldn’t care if they complained or didn’t complain, just walk through the door.”
Tom Monfiletto, a former Hun baseball star who has served as an assistant coach on McQuade’s staff the last eight seasons, thrived under that open door policy.
“He just taught you how to have fun doing something that you love and if you are doing something that you love, you are going to have fun doing it,” said Monfiletto, a 2004 Hun alum.
“It was hard to not have fun, it was hard to not play with enthusiasm when your leader and your head coach brought more energy than anybody else on the field. That just kind of rubs off on you; he created an environment that was just so incredibly enjoyable and conducive to relationships being formed.”
The relationships McQuade has formed with his players have gone well beyond baseball.
“He cared about you as an overall human being, what you did in the classroom, what kind of things were you bringing to the table other than as a baseball player,” said Monfiletto.
“He really taught us to not be defined by the game of baseball, things that he cared about, we in turn cared about, which was excellence in the classroom, excellence in all walks of life, showing respect to other people and just carrying yourself with passion and enthusiasm in everything that you did.”
Monfiletto got a deeper appreciation of McQuade’s character from coaching with him.
“They say you really shouldn’t meet your heroes because you will always be disappointed by the result,” said Monfiletto, who will be succeeding McQuade as the head coach of the Hun baseball program.
“In getting to know coach in this capacity you get to understand, he is a human being. He is not perfect but then you appreciate how selfless he is in the fact that whatever is going on with him, he is always able to put that aside and focus on the person in front of him and how to make their day better. There is so much that goes into him as a leader than a hit or run or a bunt in a certain situation; it is so much more about using baseball to be able to succeed. Using the hardest game there is to play to be able to find a way to succeed in life and find happiness later on.”
It was a hard decision for McQuade to retire. “It has been coming, as much as I can still coach and teach,” said McQuade, who will be moving to the Wilmington, N.C. area with his wife Barbara and plans to focus on traveling and his golf game.
“I have been fortunate in so many ways that this school has allowed me opportunities just to grow and use different skills that I have while still retaining the ability to teach and coach. I am totally at peace with that now. I will miss this place, without a doubt, but being down there is better. If I stayed around here, I would be dropping in.”
Hun’s dramatic run to the state Prep A title this spring left McQuade with a special feeling of peace.
“It was emotional; we had so many parents there, we had alums, we had parents of alums,” recalled McQuade, whose squad overcame a loss in the opening round of the double-elimination competition to post four straight wins on the way to the championship.
“They were there because of the closeness that their kids had with Hun baseball and playing there. I know some of them were there for me, which was really nice to hear. It was incredible; it hasn’t left my mind. I still think about it.”
Monfiletto, for his part, is determined to apply McQuade’s philosophy as he takes the reins of the program.
“I am really confident that we are going to be able to keep this thing going in the right direction,” said Monfiletto, who played baseball and football at Hamilton College and is also serving as Hun’s communications associate for media arts.
“It really starts with the kids that you have in the program and what you preach. What coach McQuade has always preached is to carry yourself with high character and integrity. We have talented kids who are interested in Hun and if we can put them in the right position and continue to stress things like character and being a good teammate like Coach McQuade always has, I feel like we will be able to keep this rolling.”
For McQuade, keeping the focus on people has been at the core of his Hun career, on and off the diamond.
“It is the relationships that you build with players and parents, my colleagues and the faculty,” said McQuade, who was honored on June 12 at Hun’s annual Alumni Baseball Game as five speakers reflected on his impact and he received a number of gifts including a framed Hun baseball jersey and a plaque extolling his virtues to be installed at the school’s baseball field.
“I had my assistants, co-coaches I call them, because they do as much work as I do. You spend a lot of time with them, you talk every day.”
Hun won’t be quite the same place in the absence of McQuade’s uplifting talk on a daily basis.