By David Willis
---- — SALEM — After just one season and an 0-11 record, Adam Gagne announced yesterday he was stepped down as head football coach at Salem High.
Gagne left the Blue Devils to accept the head coaching job at Westford Academy, where he teaches business and served as offensive coordinator for three seasons before accepting the position at Salem. The Westford job became available after Rich McKenna left to become coach at Billerica.
“It was an extremely tough decision,” said Gagne. “I was, in no way, looking for a new job. But they approached me and after lots of time thinking, my wife and I decided it was best for me and my family to teach and coach in the same building.”
Gagne, a former star receiver at Haverhill High and Bentley University, was hired by Salem last February to succeed Jack Gati, who retired after 18 years with a 121-77 record. The 31-year-old had previously coached at Westford and, before that, as receivers coach at Merrimack College.
But his one-year tenure in Salem was a trying one.
The Blue Devils finished 0-11, their first winless season since The Eagle-Tribune began keeping records in 1982. The previous worst was a 2-7 mark in 1990. Salem struggled on both sides of the ball, being outscored 387-147 for the season, including a 28-0 loss on Thanksgiving Day to Lawrence.
“I am a competitor so I hate to leave it that way,” said Gagne. “The record didn’t really effect my decision at all. It is nothing against the players or the athletic program. It is always difficult to leave a place after one year, but I had to look at the big picture. Salem is a great town, but this was a great opportunity.”
McKenna, a Billerica native who was hired two weeks ago to replace the retiring Peter Flynn, was high on his former coordinator when he was hired last winter.
“Salem could not have picked a better candidate to lead their football program,” said McKenna last February. “Coach Gagne is a hard-working, bright, and innovative football coach. He brought tremendous energy to the practice and game fields while coaching at Westford.”
Salem athletic director Dave Rozumek didn’t return call for comment.