Paul Golla sat in his office, just feet away from the train tracks on the Bakersfield High campus Tuesday afternoon, reflecting on his 14 years as head coach at BHS.
Just minutes prior, he informed his football players that he was stepping down as head coach of the Drillers. Many tears were shed, including those from Golla and his wife, Shelly.
In a seismic change in terms of high school football coaching in Kern County, Golla resigned from BHS and accepted the same position at rival Garces.
Golla said the decision to leave the Drillers after five Central Section Division I championships and the 2013 CIF State D-I title was hard, but leaving the players was the toughest part.
But, he said, he felt it was the right one for his family.
Golla also expressed the retirement of David Reese as principal at BHS as a determining factor for him reaching out to Garces about the Rams' head coaching position. On Tuesday, Kern High School District approved Ben Sherley as new principal at BHS, effective July 1.
“With Mr. Reese retiring, I have always been loyal to him,” Golla said. “And now I felt a positive feeling at Garces with (principal) Myka Peck. Plus, my wife gets to work there on campus. I like the way they approach our partnership.”
KHSD Director of School Support Stan Greene said losing a coach of Golla’s caliber marks a “sad day” for the school district.
“When we lose a coach, it’s not good. When we lose someone that I feel is top-two, top-three in state, section, it really breaks my heart,” Greene said. “I was on staff at BHS when we hired Paul Golla. It’s heartbreaking to me. Paul is my friend and will continue to be my friend.”
Greene was a candidate for principal at BHS. When asked if Greene was in fact named principal, if it would have swayed Golla's decision to remain on board with the Drillers, Golla declined comment.
“I am confident that our superintendents hired the best candidate to make that school successful,” Greene said. “I am confident in their selection. Football coaches are the most loyal people you know.”
Golla will replace A.J. Gass as Garces head coach. Gass took a special teams coordinator position with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League this offseason.
Golla said his wife, who has been a substitute teacher in the Kern High School District, will also be hired on as a full-time teacher on campus at Garces beginning in August.
“I’ve had some fantastic offers that my family has turned down,” Golla said. “But meeting with (Peck), I really loved her energy. For the first time, it wasn’t Garces recruiting Paul Golla. It was Garces recruiting my wife and I. That meant a lot.”
Said Peck in a press release from Garces, “We are beyond thrilled to welcome coach Paul Golla to the Garces family. His commitment to his family makes it apparent that he will be an incredible addition to our campus. Garces is very blessed to have Paul Golla join our Garces family and we are very excited about the future of our football program.”
BHS was 128-50 in its 14 years under Golla.
“It has to be one of the toughest decisions of my entire life,” Golla said. “To leave this school, it meant my family felt that Garces was the right situation.”
Golla is aware taking a job in town, outside of KHSD, and at a school that is in the same league as BHS is going to rub some people the wrong way.
“I think the people that truly know me, know that being a coach for 14 years you have to have thick skin,” Golla said. “I know there are going to be people hurt, but we gave 14 years of our lives to this school and now our family has been given a great opportunity at Garces. We love the city of Bakersfield. It’s home to us and our family.”