The tears flowed down many faces.
How do I know? I was there to witness it.
Just moments after Paul Golla announced to the football team at Bakersfield High he had resigned and taken the head coaching gig at Garces, I pulled up to the parking lot outside the weight room and football coaches’ office to see players figuring out what’s next.
Inside, Golla was with his wife, Shelly, and a handful of coaches after he informed them all of his decision. Long faces and red eyes were the norm.
This is the biggest breaking news story in the Kern County high school sports world since I moved here in 2014.
BHS has always been a marquee program, not only here, but in state history.
The Drillers have the most section championships — 37 in total — and eight state titles. Both are CIF state records. Five of those section titles have come in the 14 years under Golla, which also includes the 2013 CIF State Division I championship.
That game in Carson, coincidentally, was the last football game I covered as a freelance journalist in the Sacramento region. At that time, I had no idea who Golla was as a person nor did I know really how big the football program was at BHS.
Seven months later, I was hired at The Californian and my working relationship with Golla officially began.
The first thing I realized about Paul Golla the individual is how much his wife and children mean to him. Nothing, not even the most high-profile coaching gig in town, compare to his commitment to Shelly, Adria and Gunter.
This isn’t the first time Golla has been courted by another football program. But they have usually been out-of-area teams.
This is different.
This was tougher.
This is why so many tears were shed.
There's also benefits, however. For one, the Golla family does not have to sell their house in the northwest.
Gunter, who is in the sixth grade, doesn’t have to change schools.
Shelly has accepted a teaching gig at Garces, and for those two, being on campus together daily is part of how that marriage works. They are a team.
This is a great move for the family, but that family connection is also why this pains them so much.
For 14 years, the football players, administration, coaches and parents at BHS were an extension of the Golla immediate family.
One member of that extended family is David Reese. When Reese announced his retirement as principal at BHS, Golla knew he had to think about what the right move would be.
So in comes Garces, the small private school in town that also happens to be in the same league as the Drillers.
Golla was quick to point out his conversations over the last few weeks with Garces principal Myka Peck made him feel comfortable about the school's family atmosphere.
“We just clicked. It was incredible, it really just felt like family,” Peck said.
Golla was not the only candidate for the job. Peck could not comment on the finalists, but said it was a “national search with college-level coaches.”
Former Garces coach A.J. Gass, who remains at Garces until he leaves for his new job as special teams coordinator for the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League, did confirm that Rams' offensive coordinator Cody Kekipi was a finalist for the position.
“If it was anyone other than Cody, Paul is the best answer,” Gass said. “For the families and kids at Garces, Cody would have been the best choice. But getting Paul is a great decision. Getting him is a statement.”
It’s a statement that Garces wants to build the program.
On Tuesday, phone calls and text messages flooded my cell phone. There is immediate talk that Golla could now help move the Rams into the conversation of private school power, not just in the Central Section, but in the state.
“Garces is a program that is trying to take a big step in moving forward into wanting to be one of the best in the state,” Gass said. “Getting him is the right step.”
That opportunity, and primarily the situation for his family, makes this the right move — even if it's a difficult one — for the head football coach.