CEDAR RAPIDS — Paul James will make a second tour of duty with the Cedar Rapids Washington football program.
“It feels like a second opportunity at life,” he said.
James, who guided the Warriors to the Class 4A playoffs four times (including a runner-up finish in 2003), has been recommended by Washington Principal Ralph Plagman to serve again, pending approval by the Cedar Rapids Community Schools Board of Education.
“It was something brought to me as a possibility by Ralph,” James said. “I consulted with the assistants, and I feel that everybody’s on board.”
The job became open when Tony Lombardi resigned April 18 amid an ongoing investigation concerning alleged mistreatment of players and students.
Now 59, James came to Washington in 1976, served as the defensive coordinator for 19 seasons, then was the head coach from 1995 through 2005. He fashioned a 58-48 record.
In 2006, he stepped down to become the school’s athletics director.
“When I got out, I asked the superintendent (Dave Markward) about the possibility of doing both (coaching and serving as an AD),” James said. “It was not a possibility.”
Times have changed, there’s a new superintendent in town and the door apparently is open to juggle coaching and AD duties in the fall.
Washington was 3-6 and missed the playoffs last season, and the controversy surrounding the Lombardi investigation has been burdensome on the southeast side of town.
“We need some stability and a unifying spirit,” James said.
Plagman said James “has been a highly-respected member of the Washington faculty since 1976. His outstanding record as a football coach is well known around the state, and we are excited to announce his return to the Warrior sidelines.”
James isn’t worried that the return is coming seven years after his last appearance.
“Look at the college and pro game, and you see a lot more one-back, throw-the-ball, pistol stuff,” he said. “We were kind of trend-setters in that regard. Washington football … we try to be innovative.
“I’m 59, but I don’t feel old. When it looked like this was going to happen, my wife commented that there seemed to be a little more pep in my step.”
James was the Washington girls’ basketball coach for 24 years, winning state championships in 1988 and 1995.