Bob Cote was remembered Wednesday as a “gentleman’s coach” and a great influence on the lives of the young men he coached at St. Louis High in Biddeford and Thornton Academy in Saco.

A Biddeford native, Cote died Tuesday at age 88.

Bob Cote, shown in a 2004 file photo, was a star athlete at the former St. Louis High, where he later coached three sports. He later was the football coach at Thornton Academy.  John Patriquin/Staff file photo

“He was a perfect role model for someone growing up,” said Don Wilson, the former Biddeford High athletic director who played for Cote at St. Louis High and lived just down the street from him. “It was just the way he conducted himself. He never yelled, never screamed. He made you a lot better than you thought you could be.”

Cote was one of the great athletes of his era, starring in three sports at St. Louis High, from where he graduated in 1949 as the class valedictorian. He went on to play at Boston College, where he played linebacker and earned the team’s B.C. Varsity Club’s award as the team’s outstanding scholar athlete.

He returned to Biddeford to coach three sports at St. Louis, beginning in 1957. When the school closed in 1970, he crossed the river and became the football coach at rival Thornton Academy, from where he retired in 1984. His career record at the two schools was 173-74-8, winning state Class A state championships at St. Louis in 1958, 1961, 1964 and 1966.

Those who played for him, or coached against him, said he had a great impact on their lives.

Dick Agreste played for Cote at St. Louis, then coached with him at Thornton Academy, eventually replacing him as the Trojans’ head coach. “That’s probably the most memorable achievement that I ever had, being named his replacement,” said Agreste. “To me, it was quite an honor because I thought so much of him.

“There’s no question the influence he had on me drove me into coaching and education.”

Like Wilson, Agreste got to know Cote away from the playing field. Before he attended St. Louis High, Agreste met Cote at the May Field in Biddeford. “A lot of people grew up down there,” said Agreste. “Bob was a family man, and made you feel you were important to him.”

He had a laid-back coaching style, often “walking around smoking his pipe on the practice field,” said Eric Purvis, who played quarterback for Cote at Thornton Academy in 1980. “He was a gentleman coach, terrific with the kids. It was a lot of fun being out there playing football for him.”

Ron Cote, no relation to the coach, played for Bob Cote at St. Louis, graduating in 1968. As a quarterback, he was allowed to call his own plays and “that gave me a great deal of confidence as a player.”

Ron Cote said he was being recruited to play at Biddeford High when he was a junior at St. Louis, but stayed because of the chance to play for Bob Cote.

“He was one of the positive influences in my life as a coach,” said Ron Cote.

Then, after Bob Cote moved to Thornton, Ron Cote was an assistant at Biddeford under Mike Landry. The schools were huge rivals.

“It was strange to go up against him,” said Ron Cote. “It was like everyone knew he was a legend at that time. And you wanted to beat the legend.”