B y Bill Toscano
John Millett, who has coached three generations of Whitehall Central School football players, and has won 195 games, will not be back to coach the Railroaders this fall.
Millett, who has had three separate runs as head coach, said Monday that he had met with Superintendent James Watson last week and was told Watson would recommend assistant coach Justin Culligan to replace him. The School Board will vote on that appointment at its June 20 regular meeting.
Watson confirmed that decision Monday and said it grew out of an agreement among Millett, Culligan and the board in 2009.
“I am very appreciative of what John did,” said Watson, who hired Millett on two occasions. “He volunteered to step in and give us two years to right the ship when the program was struggling, and he did just that. Now we need to be fair to Justin.”
Culligan has been successful as the Railroaders’ outdoor track coach, and Watson said another reason for the decision was the fact that Culligan is an active teacher in the school. He teaches U.S. History.
“He’s been a diligent assistant for a number of years, he has head coaching experience from track, he mentored under John, and we feel he’s ready for the job.”
Millett talked about Watson’s decision and about his history at the school, but he declined to comment on the decision itself or his reaction to it on the record.
Culligan withheld comment, saying he preferred to wait until after the school board vote.
Millett, a former physical education and drivers’ education teacher at the school, started coaching the Railroaders in 1966, taking over from Clint Taft. Previously, Millett had coached at Granville from 1957 to 1961.
Millett coached until 1990, then retired, but after a year he came back. He said Watson asked him to come back at that time. Millett coached through the 1999 season, then retired again. In 2009, Bob Schoonmaker left the program after a single season. Schoonmaker had replaced Bob Prenevost, who had been Millett’s replacement. The Railroaders were winless in Schoonmaker’s year as head coach. Millett re-applied, and Culligan applied.
The Railroaders had a 17-game losing streak built up before beating Ichabod Crane in the season finale. In 2010, the Railroaders had an excellent year, getting out to a very fast start, qualifying for the Class D sectional playoffs and finishing 5-4.
That’s when, according to Watson, a deal was struck. He said that the board discussed hiring Culligan, partly because he was teaching in the school. Millett had returned, but was still teaching driver’s education. Watson said the board and the applicants came to an agreement that Millett would coach two more years, then step down.
Millett’s career record stands at 195-118-11. His teams have won two sectional titles and qualified for the title game five times in six years starting in 1979. His 1973 team went 8-0. Millett’s wife Joyce passed away earlier this year. They had been married 48 years. This past season, one of his top seniors was his grandson, Justin Millett.