Nobles AD, coach recalled as loyal and driven
The five engraved footballs on display in his home in Cornelius, N.C., were the most cherished mementos of former Noble & Greenough head football coach Lee Sargent.
Each signified the seasons — 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, and 1985 — his team won the Independent School League championship.
The 70-year-old Sargent, who died Jan. 25 after a battle with leukemia, was also athletic director, assistant hockey coach, and a history teacher at the private high school in Dedham for 17 years.
He was a driving force behind the expansion of the ISL, formerly the Private School League, in the 1970s.
“We became instant friends when Lee came to Nobles in 1967,’’ recalled former Nobles hockey coach Dick Flood of the Dover native. “He was my assistant all his years there and he also coached my sons, Sam and Dick, in football.
“He was driven, he did it his way, and those who followed what he said were better off for doing so. Lee was as important a part of our school as anyone I knew in my 21 years there.’’
George Lee Sargent Jr. was also treasurer of the New England Patriots from 1967 to ’75 and executive vice president his last two years with the team.
His father, George, an original Patriots co-owner, held the same positions until his death in 1962.
A graduate of St. Paul’s School who set a pitching record at Harvard that still stands — an 0.42 earned run average out of the bullpen for the Ivy League champs in 1964 — Sargent left Nobles in 1986 to join the football staff at Davidson (N.C.) College under the direction of Vic Gatto.
They had been colleagues before: During a sabbatical, Sargent earned his master’s degree at Tufts University, where he served as Gatto’s offensive coordinator (the Jumbos were 11-4-1 those two seasons).
After Tufts, he returned to Nobles in the fall of 1983 and his football teams won 50 of the last 56 games he coached. Sargent (88-17 overall record) coached his son, Trip, a senior wide receiver, during that 1983 season.
“He was highly organized and detail-oriented and a big believer in the two-platoon [separate offensive and defensive units]. I’ll never forget a practice where he was just waiting for me to screw up to get his point across,’’ recalled his son.
“Out of nowhere, he threw a forearm shiver across my helmet and it got real quiet when we went back to the huddle. Needless to say, we ran the play correctly after that.
“Later he told me that it wasn’t personal and that I was the only player he could make it up to at the dinner table.’’
His father, he said, “bled the colors of every school he coached at. What he demanded of others he demanded of himself but always with a lot of caring and a lot of love — and with high expectations. He kept photographs of big plays that won games for Nobles and he remained a loyal Patriots and Red Sox fan.’’
Sargent, a nephew of former Massachusetts governor Francis W. Sargent and a Marine captain who served in Vietnam (earning a Purple Heart), was a great all-around athlete. He was a Junior Davis Cup team member and a marathoner.
Flood recalled that when the Bulldogs hockey team was a man short at practice, Sargent, who had been a junior varsity player at Harvard, would hop over the boards and jump into the play.
After retiring from college coaching, Sargent served as a game management operations director at Davidson. He was also a regional and Final Four basketball tournament director for the NCAA and a youth baseball coach while living in North Carolina.
His former players and coaching colleagues at Nobles were loyal to the end.
Three of them — Rob Johnson, Hap Garrett and Win Perkins — relayed messages from Sargent during the final months of his life to 70 players and coaches via e-mails and phone calls.
“I talked to him for the last time just before the kickoff of the Patriots-Ravens playoff game,’’ said Flood. “I said, ‘Sarge, what’s going to happen?’ And he said he wished they were playing in Denver in the cold weather. He didn’t like the matchup and as usual, his instincts were right.’’
A memorial service will be held April 29 at 11 a.m. in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Dedham.
Notables on campus
McKenna Kelly, a Hamilton College sophomore from Westwood, was named New England Small College Athletic Conference women’s swimming and diving Performer of the Week after winning three individual events (200-, 500- and 1,000-yard freestyle) and contributing to a win in the 400 freestyle medley in a dual meet victory over Union College. . . . Continued...