SMETHPORT, Pa. — As seasons have gone by and coaching regimes changed over the years at Smethport Area High School, one thing has remained constant within the Hubbers’ program: the presence of assistant coach Jim McGuire.
McGuire has served as an aide at Smethport since 1981, having recently completed his 39th season within the program. But his time at Smethport began even before that, as he played quarterback for the Hubbers from 1959 to 1962 and then served as a statistician after graduating.
There are plenty of reasons why he keeps returning season after season, but the factors that bring him back to the sideline more than anything else are his passion for football and helping kids at Smethport.
“It’s for the love of the game,” McGuire said. “I love football and love working with the kids and all the coaches. I’ve worked with a lot of coaches over the years and have had great relationships with all of them.”
WITH NEARLY four decades of experience under his belt, McGuire has been able to provide the Hubbers a steady hand and plenty of wisdom from his many seasons.
“Coach McGuire has seen just about everything on a football field,” current Smethport head coach Adam Jack said. “He can give us advice on how to handle something, and it’s always valuable. But more than game situations, his overall knowledge and his staying power with the program are invaluable. He’s a staple.
“He has a passion for the program and game of football, and you can tell he really cares about the kids.”
McGuire said that while the game of football has certainly changed since he began coaching, one thing, for the most part, has not: the players.
“They haven’t changed that much,” he maintained. “Kids are still kids, and they haven’t changed as much as people think they have. They’re still kids, and you just go out and coach them.”
Coaching, however, can differ from player to player, and that’s one of the biggest lessons McGuire, now 75, has taken with him over the years.
“You can’t coach every kid the same way. Some kids you come down on, some you have to give a hug,” he said. “You just have to coach each kid differently and take a different approach.”
OVER THE YEARS, there have been plenty of highs and lows for McGuire and the Hubbers.
He was first brought aboard by then-coach Carl Defilippi in 1981, and eventually the success started rolling in. Smethport took home six District 9 championships during the 1990s, five in Class A and another in Class AA, and also won some Border Conference and Allegheny Mountain League titles along the way.
And, of course, during the ‘90s, the Hubs were winners of 67 consecutive regular season games, a state record at the time. The apex came in 1992, when Smethport finished as the state runner-up.
“It’s just a source of pride and amazing to think about,” McGuire said. “There were a lot of really good teams back then.”
AFTER THAT golden age, however, Smethport’s program went somewhat dormant.
The Hubs won a final AML title in 2001, and didn’t return to the D9 championship game again until 2018.
But since the hiring of Jack in 2017, Smethport has gone through a bit of a renaissance. The Hubbers have gone to two D9 championship games in the last three seasons, and captured D9 Small School North Division titles in 2018 and 2020.
Among Jack’s favorite memories with McGuire was after Smethport’s home playoff win against Union/A-C Valley in 2018.
“That was our first home playoff game in about 20 years,” Jack noted. “I remember when the clock wound down, we just locked eyes and the emotion he had and joy he was feeling in that moment is something I’ll always remember.”
McGuire also highlighted this year’s group of players for working through such tumultuous circumstances. Oftentimes, it appeared Smethport — and all teams in Pennsylvania — wouldn’t be able to have a season. Instead, the Hubs finished as runners-up in District 9.
“It was amazing how resilient the kids were. Sometimes the adults worried more than the kids, and the kids just didn’t let (the uncertainty) bother them,” McGuire said.
BEYOND THE games, McGuire has had the privilege of coaching all three of his sons — Scott, Brian and Kevin — as well as his grandson, Brandon Higley, a current member of the Smethport roster.
McGuire was unable to watch his oldest son, Scott, in person much due to scouting duties during Scott’s career. When Scott played, teams didn’t yet exchange film, and there was no resource on the internet for teams to scout each other. Instead, McGuire drove to watch future opponents on game nights.
“That was just a part of coaching,” McGuire said. “I have no regrets with it, and it didn’t bother Scott.”
As time went on, McGuire was able to watch Brian and Kevin, and now Brandon.
“It’s great to watch Brandon develop into a good player, but more than that, I’m proud about him growing into a good kid,” McGuire said. “That’s what I’m most proud of.”
In addition to sharing those moments with his family, McGuire was actually on staff during most of the playing careers for Smethport’s current coaches, Jack included.
“It’s humbling and gratifying to coach with men I coached as players,” McGuire said.
He also had plenty of people to thank for giving him the ability to coach all this time.
“I need to thank Carl Defilippi for hiring me and giving me the opportunity when I hadn’t coached yet,” McGuire said. “And I also need to thank Ward Baun, Denny Maynard, Rick Woodring, all of the players I’ve coached and the coaches at Smethport today.”
TODAY, McGuire still roams the sidelines for the Hubbers and also assists with the junior high program on a daily basis.
Jack saied McGuire is also on top of making sure the team is ready for practices and games.
“He makes sure we have everything we need, from footballs to extra jerseys,” Jack said. “He doesn’t even have to keep a list because he knows it so well.”
McGuire also assists with pregame scouting to make sure the Hubbers’ opponents aren’t presenting anything unexpected.
His energy is palpable on game nights, too.
“If he happens to be particularly moved by a pregame speech, he says, ‘if you can’t get excited about playing after that, you ought to hang it up,’” Jack said. “After (nearly) 40 years to have that energy and enthusiasm says a lot.”
And it’s that enthusiasm that will bring him back for season No. 40 in 2021.
“I don’t know what I’d do in the fall without coaching,” McGuire said. “And I’m excited about this program and its future with Adam. The last several years, it’s been nice to have Friday nights feel special again. It feels like they’re important in this town again.”