Jim Quinlan, a former Saugus High player and coach, is now coaching at Bishop Fenwick.
After hanging up his skates in Saugus,Quinlan returns to coach at Fenwick
By STEVE KRAUSE
He’s back. The bundle of energy with the high-pitched voice is pacing back and forth behind the Bishop Fenwick bench, spurring his hockey players into frantic action.
“Up … up … come up,” he screams at his forwards. One of them commits an infraction and ends up in the penalty box. He goes over to him, bends down, and you can hearing admonish the boy.
“We can’t afford to have you take a penalty like that,” he says, not so gently. “We need you on the ice. Now come on. Let’s go.”
And then, Jim Quinlan manages a smile, pats the kid on the back, and goes back to his high, piercing instructions.
Twelve years ago, Quinlan and the Saugus hockey team were the gold standard on the North Shore. The Sachems won back-to-back state championships and almost copped a third, losing in 2005 to Boston Latin in two overtimes in a memorable game at the TD Garden.
Then, he abruptly stepped down. He made his decision, in part, he says, with the words of his friend and mentor, the late Chris Serino, fresh in his ears.
“Christie taught me so much about coaching,” said Quinlan, who played for the late Serino while at Saugus High and later coached with him at Malden Catholic, where he was an assistant when the Lancers finally broke through to win the first of their five Division 1A hockey titles. “And Christie always said that family came first.”
By 2005, he was ready to step down. He’d already coached his son, Eric, who had completed a year of prep school and later played for UMass Dartmouth. His daughter, Erin, played Division 1 soccer in college, and his youngest daughter, Emma, was a college athlete too.
“I’m fortunate that I was able to watch my kids play in college,” said Quinlan. “And I ended up traveling all over the country.”
But he never lost the itch for hockey. He worked with the Saugus Hockey Alumni Association, and helped implement a middle school team in the town. But by then, he’d moved to Boxford. And after talking things over with his wife, who encouraged him to return to coaching, he went for the job that opened up at Triton. “She said it was my passion, and that I should get back into it. And she’s right,” Quinlan says.
He didn’t get it, but it just whetted his appetite and when current Saugus coach Jeff Natalucci told him about an opening at Bishop Fenwick, Quinlan hustled to get his application in on time. After two interviews with athletic director Dave Woods, he got the job.
And he’s very happy to be back in the game.
“I’m a whole different kind of coach than these kids have had,” said Quinlan. “They’ve had three coaches in three years, and I feel bad for them in that situation.”
The Quinlan-Fenwick marriage has been a steep learning curve for both.
“It’s been a case of them learning my ways and me learning theirs,” he said. “But I think they’re starting to buy into my ways. I can see the focus in their faces.”
Of course, to know Quinlan is to know that he is one of the area’s elite coaches. He inherited the Saugus High program after the 1999 season from Lou Finocchiaro, who’d coached the Sachems to a state championship before he resigned (Finocchiaro is now coaching Austin Prep, a perennial Super 8 school). It didn’t take Quinlan long to bring Saugus back into hockey prominence.
“I’ve been to five state finals,” said Quinlan. “Three with Saugus as a head coach, and two as an assistant. I’ve been there, and I know how to get there. It’s a tough road. Some guys coach all their lives and never get there. I’ve been fortunate.”
Right now, he just wants his players to learn from his knowledge of the game and his experiences as a coach. “These kids have shown a lot of character,” said Quinlan.
“That’s the biggest thing with me. What I like is that the kids ask me questions. They want to learn, and they want to get better. “That makes me feel good,” he said. “They’re listening to me. They’re buying into what I’m saying. That’s all I can ask for. Eventually, it’s going to click.”
Quinlan is one of three old-time coaches in their second lives at Fenwick. Doug Anderson, a veteran of three decades of coaching, has taken over the girls hockey program. And Kevin Moran, who brought a Division 4 boys basketball state championship to St. Mary’s’ in 2012, is in his first year coaching the sport for the Crusaders.
“I love it,” said Quinlan. “I see Kevin sometimes and we talk about what it’s like to come back after being away. And, of course, there’s nobody like Doug.” He is grateful for Woods for giving him the opportunity to do what he truly loves.
“I’m truly humbled to get this job,” Quinlan said. “I can’t say enough about Dave, and that’s why all I want to do is give him, and the school, 100 percent of what I have.”
Photos: Katie Morrison