Denny Claire is much more than a coach

Denny Claire sure knows how to make an exit.

His Wilton-Lyndeborough Warriors softball team ushered him into retirement with an amazing victory over undefeated Epping in the Class IV championship game at Plymouth State University, a game they really weren’t supposed to win and almost didn’t.

It was a heart-stopping victory, certainly not the first of its kind. Claire’s WLC squads have won multiple titles during a tenure that began in 1988,

Cabinet reporter Chris Pantazis asked him if because of the victory he might change his mind and coach another year and the reply was typical Claire:

“Are you kidding me? I’m lucky I’m still breathing.”

Not for him the sour demeanor of a coach who takes things so seriously that he can’t have fun along the way.

Those of us who have covered WLC softball over the years know that win or lose, Claire was always willing to talk after the game and always found a way to praise his players and always seemed to like them.

That might sound surprising but we have all dealt with coaches who believe the mantle of Vince Lombardi devolved to them, who think screaming and threatening are the best ways to build a winner.

Not Denny Claire. First and foremost, he was a teacher. That, he always seem to be saying, was how you got the best out of your players: Teach them the right way to do things before the season, then trust them to do it right when the game is on the line.

It’s going to seem odd not seeing Claire make that long walk up the hill from the WLC parking lot to the softball field. But we’re going to think of him as much more than a coach: He’s a good man.