Jim Donnelly was there at the beginning.
Donnelly was a freshman at De La Salle High in 1979 when a 25-year-old Bob Ladouceur was hired as the head football coach at the Catholic school in Concord.
As a senior, Donnelly played on Ladouceur's first undefeated team in 1982. It wouldn't be the coach's last perfect squad.
On Friday, Ladouceur announced he is retiring as the school's head football coach at the age of 58.
The well-known coach leaves with 399 victories, 29 North Coast Section titles and 17 state football crowns. At one point, his teams had a 151-game winning streak. The Spartans haven't lost to a Northern California team since 1991.
Donnelly has watched it all. First, as a student and player. Now, as a senior revenue manager for Jim Beam in Chicago.
"Coach Lad is just a phenomenal teacher and leader," said Donnelly, who played running back and defensive back for the Spartans. "He has the ability to reach young people."
Donnelly said Ladouceur is the type of coach who inspires his athletes at all levels. He teaches them to play for their teammates and not themselves.
"He turned average athletes into phenomenal players," said Donnelly.
The former Spartan scoffs at the notion that Ladouceur and his coaching staff recruited players from all over the East Bay.
"He taught unity and hard work. Year after year, it was the same result on the field," said Donnelly.
Donnelly said Ladouceur is a reserved person who doesn't seek the limelight. However, he has such integrity that he commanded any room he choose to address.
"When he speaks, you can hear a pin drop even though he's not the loudest person in the room," said Donnelly.
Donnelly is not alone in his feeling.
Joseph Jackson and Scott Herting, teammates on Ladouceur's 2010 state championship team, attended Friday's news conference.
They said their coach taught them life lessons about responsibility, hard work and unity.
"He taught us how to be a man on the field and off the field," said Jackson.
"He taught us to be responsible to the man next to you. He taught us brotherhood," added Herting.
Jackson, a kicker and wide receiver, remembers kicking his first field goal in a game against Amador Valley High. He said he'll forever remember Coach Ladouceur shaking his hand after that kick.
The adoration extends beyond the players.
Donnelly's sister, Carondelet graduate Anne Donelly Belt, said she and other family members attended De La Salle games while her brother played as well as after he left.
Her parents, Fred and Laura Donnelly, were lifelong fans of De La Salle football. Belt's daughters also attended games when their boyfriends played for Ladouceur.
"Coach Lad will be sorely missed and is indeed our modern day John Wooden of high school football," she said.
Jim Donnelly believes Ladouceur never accepted offers to coach and the professional level because he knew where he was effective, both on the athletic field and as a religious studies teacher.
"At the heart of it, he's a teacher," Donnelly said. "He found his niche. He found where his value was."
Donnelly said he still remembers the lessons he learned at De La Salle in his everyday life. If he's dragging some day at work, he remembers the effort he and his teammates put in to achieve success on the field.
Donnelly thinks De La Salle's football team will be successful without Ladouceur at the helm. However, they might not be as dominant.
"Coach Lad is the heartbeat of the team," he said.
Jackson and Herting still see state championships in the Spartans' future. They said the coaches that remain carry Ladouceur's philosophy.
"It's always a team effort," said Herting.