PEABODY — After 33 years and 701 games, the end of an era for Peabody High girls basketball came yesterday afternoon when Hall of Fame coach Jane Heil announced her retirement.
“I always said I would know when it was the right time, and I feel it’s now,” Heil said at a news conference held in principal Eric Buckley’s office following a meeting with her team. “I believe I’m leaving the program in good shape for the future.”
Heil put Peabody High girls basketball on the map, making them both a local and state powerhouse first in the Greater Boston League and later the Northeastern Conference. Among the many highlights of her illustrious career is the 1984-85 season, when the Tanners won the Division 1 state championship.
She leaves with an overall coaching record of 528-173. Heil coached Peabody High for 18 years from 1977-78 to 1994-95, took four years off to watch her own two children, Kristin and Bobby, play, then rejoined the Tanners as head coach in 1999-2000 and proceeded to coach another 15 seasons.
Heil said she first started thinking about retiring last summer and talked it over with her family and staff, but didn’t make a final decision until a week ago. It didn’t really hit her until Tuesday when she sat down to write her retirement letter to athletic director Phil Sheridan and Buckley.
“I will never leave this program; it will be in my heart forever, and my life was made richer and better,” said Heil, who coached the Tanners to 17 GBL titles, one NEC crown, 27 trips to the Division 1 state tournament, two Division 1 North crowns and the aforementioned state title.
This past season, Heil guided the Tanners to a 16-6 mark before bowing to Central Catholic of Lawrence in the Division 1 North quarterfinals. In the team’s final home game in late February, three significant things happened: senior center Carolyn Scacchi reached the coveted 1,000 point mark for her career; Peabody won a tournament game for the first time in four years, and it marked coach Heil’s 700th game behind the bench.