Woodstock football coach O'Brien retiring

Fired from Valdosta, he turned once-woeful Wolverines into winners

Mike O'Brien, the former state-championship coach at Valdosta who built long-suffering Woodstock into a contender, announced Wednesday that he was retiring from coaching after 41 years. He told his players Wednesday morning.

“They were a little upset, and it was hard telling them I was leaving,’’ O’Brien said. “My wife retired from teaching school a couple of years ago, and I’ve been thinking about it and just think it’s the right time to do it. I may change my mind later, but I think it’s the right time now.’’

O’Brien, a native of Mississippi, was an assistant coach at Valdosta for 15 seasons during which Valdosta won six state championships under the late Nick Hyder.

In 1996, O’Brien was named to succeed Hyder and won a state title for Valdosta in 1998. But despite a 70-20-1 record over seven seasons, O’Brien was fired controversially after an 8-3-1 finish in 2002.

O’Brien then came to Woodstock, which had been 0-10 the previous two seasons. Woodstock was 5-5 the next year. O’Brien led the program to its first-ever playoff appearance in 2005 and first playoff victory in 2008. In 2009, Woodstock was 10-2, its first 10-win season.

O’Brien’s record at Woodstock was 42-34 and his overall record 112-54-1. But O’Brien said championships and records weren’t the highlights of his career.

“All those are accomplishments, but they go by wayside the next year,’’ O’Brien said. “It’s the kids you've helped hopefully and the lives you've affected or changed. Hopefully they live on forever.’’

O’Brien said he and his wife, Glynda, would continue to live in Cherokee County.

“This is our home now,’’ O’Brien said. “I told the players that I was still going to be there for them.’’