Jack Toole was a lifelong educator, a masterful football scout and running guru who influenced generations of local student-athletes from Granville and Hudson Falls.
Bridget Wiffin remembered a coach who was willing to meet her at the track for a running workout at 5 a.m. so she could make a band trip.
Mike Macura and Tom Heinzelman recalled a good friend with a ready smile, whose attention to detail was evident in the stacks of scouting reports he produced each week.
Toole, a longtime teacher and coach, died last Saturday after a battle with cancer. He was 68. He left behind his wife, Maria, three children and four grandchildren.
Toole was an elementary school teacher in Granville for 35 years, and spent four decades coaching track and football at both Granville and Hudson Falls high schools.
“Jack and I went back a long time together — we were friends, he was a groomsman in my wedding when I got married, and we coached together,” said Macura, a longtime former coach and teacher at Granville. “He was a genuine guy — anything you needed, he would help you out. He would do anything for the kids. My kids were very fortunate to have him for a teacher. They always talked about him. It’s a tragic loss for everybody, his family and people who have known him for a long time.”
“Jack’s kindness always shined through, and he had a very analytical side about athletics,” said Hudson Falls football coach Bill Strong, who played for and coached with Toole. “Any question I had as a young coach, he was always there to answer. I enjoyed many conversations with him over the years. He was very philosophical about athletics, teaching and everything. It’s sad to see someone like that go.”
“He never gave less than his very best for kids,” said Heinzelman, the former Hudson Falls football coach and athletic director. “He was a great teacher, and coaching is teaching. He was teaching on the field and teaching his runners every day. He was very soft-spoken, you never saw him get rattled, but he had a fiery competitive spirit.”
Toole was one of the greatest athletes ever produced by Hudson Falls and legendary track coach Tony Luciano. He still holds Hudson Falls’ record in the mile, and earned a full track and field scholarship to the University of Nebraska, where he won a Big Eight championship.
That made him a valuable running coach as he tutored many runners over the years, including Wiffin, who as Bridget Wiedl qualified for states from Hudson Falls in the 800 meters in 1997.
“I was motivated by him — he was a scholarship athlete, so he knew what it took to be successful,” said Wiffin, who also ran at Beloit College and Oswego State, and now works at Williams College as director of the grants office. “When Tooley — we always called him Tooley — met me for the 5 a.m. track workout it was because I was training for state quals. He didn’t want me to miss that important workout in preparation for the qualifying meet. He taught me a lot about strategies related to track — I had been focused on cross country — but he had the insider knowledge about positioning, particularly in the 800.”
“He really studied the sport of running,” Heinzelman said. “I don’t think anyone in this area had more knowledge than he did. He had figured out all of these algorithms and actually created a distance-running formula. He was a genius, but he never took credit for anything, he just wanted to be a contributor to the success of a program.”
In football, Toole was a known as a “master scout” and creative offensive coordinator. He coached with Macura in the 1980s and early 2000s, and was an assistant at Hudson Falls for many years. In 2016, when Granville needed an interim coach, Toole stepped up when asked. He even took over the Glens Falls Greenjackets one season when they needed a head coach.
But it was his scouting of opponents where Toole really shined in football — preparing teams for each upcoming game.
“When we went to scout, it was fun — this was before they had Hudl or a film exchange,” Macura recalled. “Rain or cold, didn’t matter, we’d be charting plays. He’d have his scouting report Sunday night or Monday in school — he’d have a stack of things there, so by the time we met the kids, we were ready to go. And that was all done by hand — now it’s all computerized.”
“It was almost too much information,” Heinzelman said with a laugh. “He knew more about the opponent than they knew about themselves. It was magical to see what he would do — 50-60 pages of handwritten work, and he would run our scout team. We were successful because of our preparedness through his efforts.”