CONCORD -- De La Salle's Bob Ladouceur is two wins shy of becoming the first California high school football coach to reach 400 career victories.
He'll go for No. 399 on Saturday when the Spartans try for a fourth consecutive California Interscholastic Federation Open Division state title against Centennial-Corona. But there's a chance he won't reach 400.
The Spartans' season will end Saturday night, and Ladouceur, 58, has said this year or next could be his last before retirement.
To be fair, Ladouceur makes this claim every year, says De La Salle defensive coordinator Terry Eidson. But this season Ladouceur mentioned it to a television reporter before the North Coast Section championship win.
Since then speculation has accelerated, but Ladouceur prefers not to talk about it right now.
"It'll be sooner rather than later, that's the reality of it," said Eidson, who has coached alongside Ladouceur for 30 years. "It's not way down the road. He says it every year, but he's getting more near that point."
Four hundred wins probably is one of the last things on Ladouceur's mind.
"Do you think he even knows?" Eidson quipped.
One of the most celebrated high school coaches in any sport, Ladouceur has always been far more concerned about getting the most out of his players than any personal achievements.
"I thought it was a milestone to get 300, but I don't really count them," Ladouceur said earlier this week. "I feel
Ladouceur's accomplishments at De La Salle are unparalleled.
His 398 wins come along with just 25 losses and three ties for a .934 winning percentage.
Since taking over at De La Salle as a 25-year-old in 1979, Ladouceur has guided the Spartans to 28 NCS titles, including a current stretch of 21 straight. They have won four state titles in the state event's six years, including three consecutive, and haven't lost to a Northern California team since 1991.
Amani Toomer, Maurice Jones-Drew and D.J. Williams are among his former players that have gone on to the NFL. Dozens more have gone on to successful college careers.
De La Salle vaulted into the national spotlight when it won a national-record 151 straight games from 1992-2004.
Eidson says Ladouceur has the same approach to coaching as he did 10 years ago when the Spartans were in the middle of that streak.
"He's unrelenting in pushing kids to reach their potential and that has never changed," Eidson said. "That is one of his greatest strengths, knowing the ability of his players and pushing buttons until he gets it out of them. It's a special skill set, understanding where a kid can find success on the field and his unwillingness to let them be mediocre. Lad will push the right buttons until it happens."
De La Salle's major games are often on television, and Ladouceur gives off the impression that he is quiet and stoic as he paces the sidelines.
Not so, say senior captains Michael Hutchings and Austin Hooper. He's still intense, he's just not throwing headsets.
"Coach Lad is a character as you get to know him, but he's also about business," Hutchings said. "All the coaches are. ... He'll get on you. His words are powerful. He may not say much, but his words are extremely powerful."
Hutchings, Hooper and the rest of the senior class will play their final game as Spartans on Saturday. A win would cap a fourth straight season without a loss to a California team. That could be a pretty nice way to go out if Ladouceur decides he's ready. But so could getting win No. 400 next year.
"Ten years ago I don't think he was looking for any of those things -- this many wins or that many," Eidson said. "As you get older and realize you're not going to coach forever, you start looking at how things have gone. Four hundred wins is a big milestone for any coach in any sport, and I would think that's something he would be very proud of, no doubt."
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Number of victories for the all-time winningest high school football coaches in California:
398 -- Bob Ladouceur*, De La Salle
360 -- Marijon Ancich, St. Paul-Santa Fe Springs/Tustin
338 -- Herb Meyer, Oceanside/El Camino-Oceanside
301 -- John Barnes*, Magnolia-Anaheim/Los Alamitos
292 -- Dick Bruich, Fontana/Kaiser-Fontana
290 -- Leo Robinson, Woodlake
289 -- Gene Vollnogle, Banning-Wilmington/Carson
289 -- Lou Farrar*, Charter Oak-Covina/Royal Oak-Covina
288 -- Bob Johnson*, El Toro/Mission Viejo
279 -- Gary Campbell, Banning/Norco
Other local coaches
269 -- Benny Pierce, Saratoga
264 -- Butch Cattolico, Los Gatos
248 -- Dan Shaughnessy, St. Mary's-Berkeley/Salesian-Richmond/Albany
240 -- Mike Janda*, Bellarmine College Prep-San Jose
233 -- Ron Calcagno, St. Francis-Mountain View
* -- Active
Source: Cal-Hi Sports
CIF Championship, Open: De La Salle (14-0) vs. Centennial-Corona (14-1), 8 p.m., CSNCA