East Lake coach Bob Hudson steps down after 12 seasons



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Mon. July 6, 2015 | Bob Putnam | Email

East Lake coach Bob Hudson steps down after 12 seasons

East Lake football coach Bob Hudson, who led the program to the state semifinals the past two seasons, said he has stepped down after 12 seasons to pursue a career opportunity outside of the teaching and coaching worlds.

“It was a tough decision, but now was the time to do it,” Hudson said. “It just down to something that will be better to help my family.”

Hudson told the players about the decision Monday. He went 91-48 during his tenure, which currently was the third-longest of any coach in Pinellas County. He also led the Eagles to the playoffs eight times, including four straight region final appearances and two straight trips to the state semifinals. The Eagles also own a 25-game regular-season win streak.

The decision comes less than a month before fall practice begins. No timetable has been set for a replacement. Despite the timing, the job should attract plenty of candidates considering how successful East Lake’s program has become.

Hudson said he will still be working in the state. His son, Jake, graduated last month and will play at Baldwin-Wallace in the fall. Hudson said that had no impact on his decision. 

“I’m just going in a different path,” Hudson said.

Though he has been a fixture in Pinellas County, Hudson's roots are in Pasco. He played football, soccer and baseball at Gulf from 1986-88. Hudson missed his senior year of football with an injury. Any thoughts of playing in college were done when he was involved in a car accident in which he broke his ribs and punctured a lung.

So Hudson became a student at Florida State. After graduating, he returned to the area, eventually winding up at East Lake, where he spent seven seasons as an assistant before he was hired as the head coach in 2003.

His baptism into head coaching did not go exactly as planned.

Hudson made his debut at home against rival Tarpon Springs, and lost. Another loss came the next week against Dunedin.

That wasn't the start Hudson envisioned. The Eagles, after all, were riding a three-year playoff streak, the second-longest among public schools in Pinellas County at the time behind Seminole (four).

East Lake rebounded to win two key district games to make the playoffs as a runnerup. The Eagles went on to beat host Northeast in the region quarterfinals. It was the first time East Lake had won a postseason game since 1995.

In 2005, Gulf was searching for a coach. Hudson was asked about returning to his alma mater but decided to stay at East Lake.

Since then, the Eagles have soared to new heights with the greatest stretch of playoff success in school history. In each of the past three years, East Lake's season ended with losses to the eventual state champions (Plant in the region final in 2011, Palm Beach Dwyer in the state semifinals in 2013 and Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas last year).

East Lake also has had plenty of talent in Hudson’s tenure with left tackle Mason Cole (Michigan), receivers Artavis Scott (Clemson) and George Campbell (Florida State) all playing prominent roles in college.

Hudson said he still hasn’t ruled a return to coaching.

“This program has been a big part of my life,” Hudson said. “Pretty much everything I own is East Lake. I’ll see about making some games this season. I’ll have to see how everything goes. Regardless, I’m going to miss everyone.”

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