Westport votes to rename high school football field after beloved late coach

Paul Lane, former Staples High School football coach, seen here in 2012. Lane died in June, 2021 and the Westport RTM has voted to name Staples' football field after him.

Paul Lane, former Staples High School football coach, seen here in 2012. Lane died in June, 2021 and the Westport RTM has voted to name Staples’ football field after him.

/ Michael C. Juliano /Staff Photo

WESTPORT — Paul Lane wasn’t just a longtime football coach. To many in Westport, he was a friend, mentor and guiding force.

“Over 30 years, he coached three sports and thousands of kids were influenced by this individual,” said Jim Adrian, chairman of the Staples High School Gridiron Club.

Adrian spoke Tuesday night before the Westport Representative Town Meeting on behalf of an effort to rename the Staples football field after Lane, who died June 15 at age 93. Lane spent three decades at Staples and coached football, golf and track.

The RTM ultimately voted unanimously to rename the field for Lane, but not after multiple people — including Adrian, Staples track coach Laddie Lawrence and several members of the RTM — shared fond memories of Lane.

Adrian said someone first presented the idea of renaming the football field for Lane to him a while back.

“A lot of people asked me ‘How hasn’t this happened already?’ ”

According to a letter sent in May to Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe by the group Friends of Coach Paul Lane, the late coach “was instrumental in the growth of football in Westport. Coach Lane nurtured and mentored athletes from the formative PAL years all the way through high school. Many credit Coach Lane with the success of Staples football and the reputation that continues today in the State of Connecticut.”

In his presentation, Adrian said he scrupulously researched Lane and found that, while he was an effective coach, he was also a seemingly gentle one.

“I have heard about the way he coached, kind of with a soft hand,” Adrian said. “He wouldn’t berate, wouldn’t talk down, wouldn’t try to motivate through intimidation, but caught the bees with honey as opposed to a fly swatter.”

Before coming to the RTM, the proposal to rename the football field had to pass through several other boards, including the Board of Education and the Board of Selectmen. At Tuesday’s meeting, many of the RTM members had kind words about Lane, including Andrew Colabella, who represents district four.

“He had this ability where he could get people to see their true potential,” Colabella said. “He wasn’t just a father to four children, he was also father to children on the field and on the track.”

After the body voted 29-0 in favor of renaming the field for Lane, Marpe issued a statement applauding the decision.

“The legacy of the late Coach Lane exemplifies the lifelong impact that a great coach can have on students and athletes,” he said. “His story is the role model that any teacher and coach should follow.”