CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Ray Stackley had a hard time holding back tears on Friday as he met with the media for the 1st time since announcing his decision to retire as Head Coach of Stratford.
Stackley told Live 5 News' Andy Pruitt that he told his staff of his decision Thursday afternoon. He said he would meet with his players later Friday.
Stackley said he will stay on as an AD at Stratford until May 30.
He went 270-99 in 29 years as the Knights' head coach. Stackley led Stratford to the 1999 AAAA Division 1 state title, two other state title games, including this past year, and 18 region titles.
According to Stackley, at 63-years-old and four grand kids, he has been thinking about retirement for a while now, and the time seemed right.
He told Pruitt that he made a vow after schools split in Berkeley County in 2007, he would get Stratford back to elite level. He said he feels accomplished that, as the Knights returned to the state finals for the first time since 2004 this past season.
Stackley said he knows there are quite a few people surprised about his announcement, but he feels it's a good time for him, and a good time for the school.
Reaction from around the Lowcountry echoed that surprise but also paid tribute to one of the best coaches the area will ever see.
"Coach Stackley had a great career at Stratford. He has been a role model for the entire community." said Rodney Kinlaw, who played RB under Stackley for the Knights before going on to play at Penn State. "He coached us about more than just football, he is a life coach. I still carry a lot of morals and values today that he taught me over 14 years ago. He taught me the importance of working hard and pushing through tough times. Even simple rules he had like staying well groomed taught me about appearance for the business world after football. I thank him and Mrs. Stackley for everything they have done and continue to do to for me. I wish him the best in his future endeavors."
"Coach Stackley was a great coach but more important a good person." said West Ashley Head Coach Bobby Marion who worked under Stackley as an assistant at Stratford. "I learned alot of football from him and he always let his coachs coach. I will always be grateful to him for the opportunity he gave me. High School football in this state is going to miss him because he always ran his program the right way and with class."
When asked what he'll remember most about his time with Stratford, Stackley didn't hesitate.
"Just the relationships I've had with players and other coaches. Those are the things that mean the most to me as I enter this next phase of my life."