By Steve Kroner, SF Gate
After 38 seasons, 326 wins, 22 conference titles, seven state titles and seven mythical national championships, George Rush has decided to retire from his job as the head football coach at City College of San Francisco.
Rush announced his retirement at a news conference at CCSF on Friday morning. The Rams also named Rush's successor, Jimmy Collins. CCSF's quarterbacks coach for the past six seasons, Collins played QB for the Rams in the mid-2000s.
During a lengthy interview Tuesday afternoon, Rush acknowledged he "really struggled with" his decision to end his career. On one hand, "I've just been so lucky to have this job," he said. "It's been the best job."
Still, that job wears on him, particularly during the season.
"You have knots in your stomach 24 hours a day," Rush said. "You go, 'This is crazy.' They always say, 'There are 9 billion people in China who don't care,' but I care — and I can't change my personality. I can't make me different than how I'm built.
"Probably some reason we've had success is because I have that drive, but it's also your nemesis."
After a loss to American River College in September, Rush said he couldn't sleep until the following Wednesday.
At age 67, Rush has priorities beyond putting together a game plan for Saturday's opponent.
"I've got five grandchildren," he said, "and I don't want to be going down for the count."
On Tuesday afternoon, Rush occasionally got emotional when recalling some of the top moments of his career.
He said his 2000 and 2001 teams, each of which won a state title and a mythical national championship, "may have been the greatest two teams to ever play junior-college football. They were both 12-0 and they like to argue with each other about who was better."
Rush's favorite moments weren't all from previous decades. The Rams got a rematch against American River for the Northern California championship in November. Behind backup QB Jerry Peralta, CCSF pulled out a 17-14 victory. Rush called it "one of the most well-played games I've ever coached."
He takes particular pride in having helped players from disadvantaged backgrounds.
"Our football program has really been a place for opportunity for people (who) were overlooked, underachievers, socially/economically deprived, those kinds of kids, and they find their stride here," Rush said. "All of a sudden, instead of being a disastrous statistic, they become a success."
A defensive back for CCSF in 1966 and '67, Rush spent five seasons (1972-76) as an assistant coach for the Rams before he replaced Dutch Elston (who played on the 49ers' first team in 1946) for the 1977 season.
Thirty-eight years ago, Rush kept thanking Elston, his mentor, for the opportunity to run CCSF's program. Rush remembers Elston telling him to stop with the thank yous.
"He said, 'Look you don't have to do anything for me. Today, I'm your champion. Tomorrow, you be somebody else's champion. And if you do that (Rush paused, getting a little choked up), that's enough.'"
Rush was 29 when he became the head coach. In a neat bit of symmetry, Collins turns 29 in March. Rush and Collins will meet regularly, but Rush plans on being merely a sounding board.
"What Jimmy's going to get from me is he's going to get his own space," Rush said. "He needs to be himself."
It's going to be tough for Rush to be himself once August arrives and he has to deal with the reality of not coaching.
"Honestly, it frightens me. That's the right word: It frightens me," Rush said. "It's in your blood and it's who you are. When you're somewhere and it's the first day of practice (and) you're doing something else, it's going to feel weird. …
"It's football season. It's time. You've always done this. Being on the first tee doesn't sound like being on the sideline, the Star Spangled Banner is playing and we're ready to go."
With Rush ready to go into the next phase of his life, he made sure to recognize his wife, Jane ("I owe her a great debt of gratitude") and longtime assistant coach Dan Hayes("Danny has been in lockstep with me from Day 1. It's been a great relationship.").
Rush's 326 career victories are the most by a junior-college head coach.
"The wins are great," Rush said, "but there's stuff that's better than the winning. We're just lucky we got it all."