Photos: Baton Rouge prep football _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Catholic High head coach Dale Weiner on the sidelines against East Ascension, Friday, Nov. 7, at Olympia Stadium in Baton Rouge.

The theme of a recent retreat was more than a catch phrase for Dale Weiner.

“It’s Not About Me” guided players through a series of nonfootball, team-building drills.

Those four words could be a paradox for Weiner as he enters his 41st year in coaching, including his 29th as head coach at Catholic High.

He’s just three wins away from becoming the eighth high school coach in Louisiana to win 300 games. Taking it one game — and often one player — at a time isn’t just another catch phrase.

It’s who Dale Weiner is.

“(Reaching 300 wins) is out there,” he said. “But it can’t be a priority. It isn’t about me. It’s got to be about the guys. It’s got to be about Week 1, and then Week 2, because that’s how you coach.”

The 63-year-old smiled and leaned back in his chair.

“In order to do something like this, you have to get old,” he said. “Thinking about a number of wins is not something anybody does. You (coach) because you love the game and you want to work with kids.”

John Curtis coach J.T. Curtis sits atop Louisiana’s all-time list with 540 wins. Weiner started his career as an assistant coach at Catholic-Pointe Coupee under St. Thomas More’s Jim Hightower, who has 376 wins.

And the list goes on. Notre Dame-Crowley’s Lewis Cook joined the group last season. Weiner sits at 297-105 but doesn’t let it define him. He’s content doing what he always wanted to do.

“Boots Garland and I were close when I was (a student) at Baton Rouge High,” Weiner said. “I knew in high school I wanted to be a coach, and Boots had a lot to do with that. I’d go with him when we were on the road scouting. I’d be in the end zone, and he’d be on the headset with Leon McGraw, Jim Keaton or Jack Andre. I’d chart stuff.”

Weiner played for McGraw’s Bulldogs before graduating in 1970. Ever self-deprecating, Weiner described himself as being as green as the leaves on a tree when he joined Hightower, then a first-year coach at CHSPC.

He marvels at the opportunities young coaches have now in terms of internships and the ability to work as certified nonfaculty coaches for high schools. Weiner relished his own coaching roots.

Weiner remembered helping lay a concrete slab in front of the Catholic-PC locker room and the lessons he learned about dealing with players during two seasons as an assistant to Earl Nolan at Lee High.

It all melds into Weiner’s view of football and life today.

“That’s a lot different in our culture. Today, it’s all about selfies and 15 minutes of fame,” Weiner said. “Who’s hot right now? For people involved in organizations, businesses, our families and football teams there are other priorities.

“To me, football is the ultimate team sport. It’s really surrendering that self and saying, ‘OK, I’m going to put that aside and work for everybody around me. And I trust that my teammates will do the same for me. If that happens, I’m covered as an individual, and so is the team.’ ”

Weiner likes the contrast between society and what he sees in the current Catholic High team, noting that senior leaders have stepped into roles they’ve never had. He likes their sense of accountability.

Others, including Zachary High coach David Brewerton and Central High’s Sid Edwards, said the accountability and example start with Weiner. Brewerton was an offensive lineman for the Catholic team that finished as the Class 4A runner-up in 1990. Edwards got his start as a ninth-grade coach for the Bears.

“I talked about Coach Weiner when we had our preseason coaches meeting,” Brewerton said. “Every year, he has guys who are seniors you’ve never heard of or seen before. They’ve waited their turn to play, and they’re successful. That’s what a program is about.

“I still remember how he made me feel special as a player. He did that with everybody. I now know that was also part making us a better team, but I’m amazed at how he does it. That’s so rare.”

Edwards takes the praise for Weiner to another level.

“When I think of Dale, the word I think of is ‘champion,’ ” Edwards said. “He’s a champion as a coach, a husband, a teacher, a father and now a grandfather. In order to be a great coach, some people aren’t as good in some areas, but he excels in all of them. He treats the kid in his P.E. class who’s not an athlete the same way he treats anybody else. He’s so consistent in life, not just as a coach.”

Critics point out that Weiner has not won a state title at Catholic. Edwards said that, when you factor in Weiner’s former players/assistant coaches, the number of wins is likely close to 1,000, including multiple state titles.

Weiner admires many other coaches, including Curtis and the late Chick Childress, who coached the Ruston team that beat Catholic in 1990. Before the title game, Childress joked about their shared faith, saying, “Now I see why Catholic High is doing so well: They hired a Presbyterian.”

“I got to coach with J.T. in the 1991 all-star game, and what an honor that was,” Weiner said. “He’s the premier high school football coach in America. People want to poke holes in what they’ve done and accuse them of this or that. J.T. is a very driven coach who has established himself and maintained consistency. He’s so well organized and can communicate with his players.

“Lewis Cook is like that, and so is (Lutcher coach) Tim Detillier. So was (former Parkview coach) Kenny Guillot. They’re hands-on and can impart what they want their program to be about. They stay consistent.”

Weiner values his relationship with the Brothers of the Sacred Heart and Catholic, which culminates with his induction into the Grizzly Greats Hall of Fame on Aug. 14. His approach to the honor is predictably consistent.

“(Catholic High) is a wonderful institution with great people,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more meaningful. The way to enjoy it the most is to diminish it and just enjoy what you do.

“There’s time for reflection and savoring memories. They become special because we didn’t get so caught up in the end result. You enjoy the process.”