He coached Warren County High School’s football team to its only undefeated regular season in school history and later ascended to the role of Superintendent of Schools.
Pedro Paz, known for his unique combination of gruff and compassion, died Friday. He was 83.
Mr. Paz was a legendary local character, blessed with a fiery disposition that was backed by a voice which never needed amplification. He believed in delivering a straightforward assessment and was embraced for his tough love that was mixed with a genuine fondness for others.
Mr. Paz brought a football coach’s mentality to the Central Office when he was elected Superintendent of Schools in August 1992. He was elected twice and served eight years in a position that’s now called Director of Schools and is no longer elected.
Mr. Paz had a no-nonsense approach when it came to football and life. He often spoke with drill-sergeant tenacity, but in a tone that created likeability. His players respected him and produced on the field.
“He made a lot of kids feel like they were somebody and that’s an important thing to do,” said Andy Link, who played quarterback for coach Paz. “He didn’t pull any punches. He told it like it was.”
After years at Central, Paz became WCHS football coach in 1971 and guided the Pioneers to a 3-6-1 record his first year. It was in 1973 when coach Paz led Warren County to an undefeated 10-0 season that included four shutout victories. The Pioneers lost in the first round of the playoffs that year to Baylor.
A native of Cuba, Mr. Paz came to America as a child and attended high school in Nashville at Battle Ground Academy where he was a football star.
“Pedro said the only reason he tried out for football is because he thought it was soccer,” said longtime friend and co-worker Dr. Jerry Hale. “Soccer is called football in Cuba, which is where he was born.”
Dr. Hale worked alongside coach Paz during all eight years he served as Superintendent of Schools.
“Pedro had a direct line into his office and when people would call it he liked to answer the phone, ‘Joe’s Pool Hall,’” said Hale. “Of course everyone knew his voice so they knew it was Pedro, but it was always funny. He was a guy who didn’t back down from his beliefs. He didn’t back off anything.”
After finishing high school in Nashville, Paz relocated to Clarksville. He moved to Warren County in the mid-1960s when Central’s football coach left right before the season and a coach was needed in a hurry.
Paz is remembered as a football coach, but he was also the head baseball coach at Central and coached freshman basketball. He didn’t tolerate excuses.
“We had a scrimmage one day in Jasper and I went camping and fishing the night before so I overslept and didn’t make it on time,” said Link. “When I finally got there, coach Paz had taken up my uniform. With him, you were always held accountable.”
Paz was inducted into the Warren County Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.
“Coaching is teaching – you have to teach fundamentals,” coach Paz said at the time. “I taught fundamentals and then let the players take over. The one thing I always wanted was for our team to be in the best shape of any group in the state. That’s how we won in the fourth quarters. Our team dedicated themselves to being good.”
When Harold Lusk was inducted into the Warren County Sports Hall of Fame earlier this year in August, he asked coach Paz to make his induction speech. Lusk praised coach Paz for the impact he made in his life.
“I’m going to be perfectly honest with you. I came out for football just because coach Paz came out here and he talked to my mom and daddy and I could see right off the bat he was a good man. Not only a good man, he was an honest man,” Lusk said. “He was the type of guy who would do what he would say he would do. So I went out for football and didn’t care anything about football and didn’t even like football. I went out for football only on account of him because he wanted me to.”
Dwight O’Neal played football for coach Paz at Central High School for the last three years before school consolidation in 1969.
“He was one of the best,” said O’Neal. “He was all about his athletes. He’d go the extra mile for any one of us because he cared.”
High Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. Obituary information for Mr. Paz is in Sunday's edition.