By: J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola
George Coffey, the man that essentially built the Osceola High School softball program, died Tuesday morning in Sarasota. He was 66.
His passing stunned and saddened the Osceola High athletic community, including Miranda Watford – a former Coffey player who became his assistant coach and later became the Osceola head coach after his retirement. “For 30 years, he was my coach, my mentor, and my role model,” Watford said. “He developed me into the player, the coach, and the person I have become. He always put the person before the athlete and there was never a girl who went through the program that didn’t feel loved and cared for. We always knew he was in our corner and that he had our backs.”
Coffey served as head coach at Osceola for 26 seasons. His teams won 13 Orange Belt Conference championships, nine district titles, and four regional championships. In addition to his four appearances in the Final Four, his 1996 team finished as state runner-ups. He was credited with overseeing Osceola’s switch from slow-pitch to fast-pitch softball and for building the Osceola softball complex that now bears his name. He, along with Roger Jones, created and ran the Kissimmee Klassic, one of the Southeast’s premier high school softball tournaments that often featured ranked teams from several states. The tournament, The Roger Jones Kissimmee Klassic, was named after Jones, who passed away in 2018.
But according to Watford, victories, honors and personal accolades meant little to Coffey. “He definitely did not care about his record or the wins or the championships,” Watford said. “The only thing he really cared about was his players and making sure they became the best they could be both on and off the field.”
The athletic staff at Osceola echoed Watford’s sentiments.
“He was an incredible man and a hard worker who built our softball program from the ground up,” Osceola High Athletic Director Jim Bird said. “When something needed to get done, he was the first one to roll up his sleeves and pitch in. His greatest legacy will be the students and athletes he helped.”
Osceola Baseball Coach Scott Birchler worked next to Coffey for a decade but said his relationship goes much deeper. “He coached me in youth sports and was the Athletic Director that hired me to coach baseball in 1996,” Birchler said. “We worked side by side for more than a decade and he was always there for me when I needed advice about coaching, dealing with others or any life subject. I spent a lot of time just picking his brain about everything. Frankly, I loved the man and have always tried to pattern my life as both a coach and as a person after Coach Coffey.”
Current Osceola Football Coach Eric Pinellas credits Coffey for getting him involved in athletics. “When I was eight I was hanging around the Boys and Girls Club and it was Coach Coffey who insisted I sign up and play football. I honestly don’t know how things would have turned out if I didn’t listen to him,” Pinellas said. “Later, when I got into coaching, he was always there to give me advice and for that, I will be eternally grateful. We lost a great man today.”
Former Osceola Head Football Coach Doug Nichols said he always admired Coffey for the effort he put into Kowboys Athletics, especially during Coffey’s time as Athletic Director. “He was a huge supporter of football and all the other sports, even though he had his own program to worry about. I always respected and appreciated the support he gave us. He touched a lot of players, students, and coaches in his career.”
One of Coffey’s biggest legacies has been the effect he had on his players and their successes both on and off the field. In addition to Watford, he coached Jody Moore – who became the head softball coach at the Canterbury School of Florida – winning 11 district titles and three state championships. Tohopekaliga Head Coach Chantal Schuster is another former player who went into coaching.
“I spend the day talking to so many former players about Coach Coffey,” Watford added. “There were so many stories and remembrances it is hard to pick out one or two stories. At the end of the day, the main thing is Coach Coffey cared. He certainly was my inspiration for me to become a coach. He was a great man.”