TAYLORSVILLE – Nick Bazzle is ready for his calendar to look a little different -- with more open dates, more options and not as much football.
“I’ve been in football for 46 of my 54 years,” said Bazzle, who revealed Tuesday he is retiring from teaching and as head football coach at Alexander Central High. “I haven’t had a fall since I was 7 that I wasn’t wrapped up from August to September. … and sometimes (into) December.
“(In coaching) you just block those five months off and you focus on one thing.”
Ready now to spend more time with his aging mother who lives in Holden Beach -- and with family in general -- Bazzle’s last day at Alexander Central will be Jan. 29.
He’s leaving, as expected, with mixed emotions.
“I want to spend a little more time with her (his Mom) and enjoy a different phase of my life,” said Bazzle, a star football player at East Lincoln in the late 1970s. “I agonized over this (decision) for a long time.
“I knew it was time but at the same time didn’t know what I was going to do without football… but you gotta try (something else) sometime.
“Over the Christmas vacation, my mind was consistently overwhelmed trying to make this decision. For two days, it was ‘Hang on a little longer’. … then two days, ‘No.’”
Bazzle’s path to a career in coaching took him to four high schools after a college football career at Guilford – assistant coaching jobs at Northwest Guilford for a year, East Lincoln for two years and then to Newton-Conover, where he spent 12 seasons before landing his first head-coaching job.
He replaced retiring Don Patrick at Newton-Conover in 1999, guiding 13 teams to a 112-56 record that featured nine trips to the state playoffs, a state title (2008 2A) and two state runner-up finishes (2A in 2000, 2AA in 2009).
Four years ago, ready for another challenge, Bazzle replaced Tom Harper --who left to become Hickory’s head coach -- as the top guy in Alexander Central.
The Cougars went 5-7 and to the state playoffs in Bazzle’s first two seasons, then 4-7 and 3-8 in years when injuries played key roles.
Alexander Central going 17-29 over four seasons wasn’t as much a factor in moving on as Bazzle openly wondering what might be ahead in his life.
About 10 days ago, while making the 8-mile drive from home to school, Bazzle said the decision was on his mind. He’d just finished a weekend hunting trip with Alexander Central principal Doug Rhoney and knew the time to finalize his plans was here.
“I just knew in my heart what I needed to do,” Bazzle said. “It’s the unknown that scares you somewhat but the other part is exciting. …
“I (do) expect it (withdrawal). I don’t know, but if I don’t see what it’s like (not coaching football), it’s like I’ll never know.”
Bazzle said he won’t rule out ever coaching again because football grabbed his attention early and things were never the same after that.
At age 7, growing up in Mount Holly, he was the smallest among a group of kids in a neighborhood where football, horseshoes and marbles were learnable skills.
He regularly played with boys five years older and much bigger than he was, which made him a noticeably physical player in high school.
“I was the little guy,” Bazzle recalled. “I just learned to be rough; I had to.”
One day, a youth coach called him over to the practice field – a cow pasture – and asked him if he’d like to play organized football.
Bazzle’s first game was the Holly Bowl. He would soon turn 8, and he proudly wore the cracked helmet the coach had given him when he played.
“From then on,” Bazzle said, “it was on. I’ve played (or coached) every minute since. It just clicked for me.”
Next month, he’ll start to see if anything else might hook him.
“I still have a passion for coaching that I did when I walked in,” Bazzle said. “I might last (in retirement) a month, might last six.
“I wouldn’t rule out ever coaching again but now is a good time (to retire).”
Alexander Central athletic director Joanna Crew said the school will begin seeking Bazzle’s replacement immediately. The new boss will be seventh in the last 38 years in Taylorsville.
“(We) wish Coach Bazzle the absolute best along as he retires from a life-long career in teaching and coaching young men,” Crew said in an e-mail. “We have been blessed with Bazzle at the helm of our football program for four years. … and I have admired the passion he brought to ACHS.
“I will always remember Coach Bazzle as the utmost professional and truly appreciate the extra care he put into our football program.”