It might not have been a preordained idea to let his players know he was retiring. But Lou Sagastume let it be known during a video session, thinking maybe it could spark his players following their loss to Aurora West College Prep Academy on Oct. 1.
The Pirates lost their next game, but ride a four game-win streak into Friday’s first-round of the 3A playoffs against that same Aurora West team.
The Pirates were caught off guard when Sagastume told them. But they got together and talked.
“When he told us, we were 1-9,” said Andrew Grammel, one the Pirates captains. “We looked at that record and said this is what he’s going to be remembered for. From then on we went 4-1, so that added to the passion and fire of the team.”
The No. 23 Pirates (6-9), who open their playoffs against the No. 10 Spartans (12-3) at Bruce Randolph, have been finishing well – among the topics of conversation when Sagastume let slip he was retiring.
“One of the topics was finishing strong,” Sagastume said. “And that this season was maybe the most important of all seasons and perhaps the season the freshmen would never have the same again, and it wasn’t the same for me, and I just happened to throw it out there. ‘This is going to be my last year, so I want to finish strong with you guys, too.’
They roll into the playoffs on a four-game win streak, having outscored those four opponents 22-2 with three shutouts, and came out of nowhere to send Sagastume out a Region 1 league champion.
Whatever happens from here on out, Sagastume is looking forward to some down time.
“You retire and you say I want to start traveling and use my time to be with the family and the wife,” said Sagasume, a former Air Force men’s soccer coach. “It has to do with wanting to have a little more time in the fall, which is one of the most beautiful times of the year.”
Sagastume led the Pirates to their only state championship in the boys’ soccer program, winning it all in 2010. He rattled off at least half a dozen names that popped into his head when he started thinking of retiring – names of players who’d passed through his program.
He mentioned Will Sharkey as his possible successor. Sharkey has coached the junior varsity squad and helped Sagastume coach club soccer, which Sagastume plans to continue coaching. It doesn’t demand his attention every day, he said, and there are always assistant coaches around to help if he wants to take time off.
The players say its been an honor to be around him. Grammel has played for Sagastume for two seasons.
“I’ve never had the chance to play for a coach like him,” Grammel said. “He’s one of the best coaches in Colorado if not the country. If you look at his credentials he could be coaching at the Division I college level. It’s really humbling to have a guy that great coach you.”
Whoever takes over will have plenty of experience, since the Pirates have played a number of freshmen and sophomores this season. Sagastume has made sure those players developed over the season.
“I really do think that the sign of a good leader is to advance the kids as much as you can as you’re leading them,” he said. “Because that is leaving them in a good place for the next person to come in and continue their development.”
By now, the players have had time to mull it over. But when it popped out, Sagastume said it may have shocked them.
“I sprung it out to them in a surprising way,” Sagastume said. “And I think it kind of left them a little bit numb, in which they couldn’t say much.”
They’ve been giving their response on the field.