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Mourning the loss of Pedro Paz

Right down to his final days, Pedro Paz knew how to command a room.

Warren County lost a special man this weekend as Pedro Paz passed away after dealing with health issues over the last month. Paz, 83, leaves behind a legacy that will live on in Pioneer lore for ages.

It’s impossible to be around sports in Warren County and not have met Paz. He was passionate, knowledgeable, supportive and very, very funny. I knew about Pedro from my school days when he was the Superintendent of Schools in Warren County. Looking back, he was the last elected Superintendent in Warren County, serving from 1992-2000 as people from the community entrusted their children to his leadership.

I didn’t know Pedro personally back then. I vaguely remember his time on the news when Warren County High School was closed talking about Godzilla in the caves below the school. At that point, I knew he had a sense of humor.

Little did I know when I started writing sports, I’d get the full Pedro experience. He was a fixture on sidelines the last decade, always providing support for his family, the Pioneers and the Lady Pioneers.

It’s not shocking so many of Pedro’s family – a great group that includes many grandchildren who became Pioneer and Lady Pioneer stars – were so athletic. Paz was one of the best athletes in the state during his playing days.

He was a two-time, all-state football selection while playing at BGA in the 1950s. Pedro went on to play on both sides of the ball for Tennessee Tech, where he was named All-OVC in 1958.

Once his playing days were over, Paz was instantly an impact coach in Warren County. He was the McMinnville Central coach from 1966-68 and served as the second football coach in Warren County football history, taking the job from 1971-73.

Paz presided over the undefeated regular season football team in Pioneer history. The 1973 team went 10-0 in the regular season, defeating opponents by a combined score of 250-54. That season, Warren County five straight weeks without allowing a point to its opponents.

Lisa Paz Mason, Pedro's daughter, announced her father's passing on Facebook Friday afternoon. Paz was 83.


Because of everything Paz did for Warren County athletics – he helped with several sports over the years – he was elected to the Warren County Sports Hall of Fame in 2018. He had one of the best speeches I ever remember somebody delivering, mostly because he used it as a campaign pitch for so many other deserving people.

He told a great story about Mama Lusk, the matriarch of a football family that includes some of the best running backs in school history. In Pedro’s estimation, his Hall of Fame career would have never happened if Mama Lusk hadn’t given birth to so many splendid athletes. He reiterated that same point just a few months ago when the Class of 2021 was inducted, urging those in charge to build a statue and induct her into the WC Sports Hall of Fame.

That night was the last time I got a chance to talk to Pedro. And, of course, he was a show stealer on a night where Warren County legends were everywhere. Here’s what I wrote that night after the event:

Paz is still a tour de force

Put a mic around Pedro Paz and watch magic happen. Everybody in Warren County is aware of Paz’s ability to be witty in a moment’s notice. He may not get around as quickly anymore, but his mind is still as sharp as ever.

“I need to put a motor on this thing,” said Paz as he approached the mic with assistance of a walker. He also said he was going to “wing” his speech introducing Harold Lusk, before grabbing a piece a paper from his pocket and saying, “this is what Harold wrote and wanted me to say.”

Paz wasn’t a big fan of the cafeteria seats either, letting people know that he had an epiphany while sitting down - “I know now why our students aren’t eating a well-balanced meal. Those are the most uncomfortable chairs I’ve ever set.”

Paz also says a lot with his movements, so it must be watched. Make sure to check out the video – Paz starts speaking at the 55:30 mark. Paz got the biggest laughs of the night.

(Here’s the link to the whole ceremony on YouTube:


I have been a first-row spectator for the Pedro show many times over the years. It’s usually because he was on the front row for all his grandchildren’s games and you never, ever would confuse Pedro’s voice for anybody else. It only took a second to realize who was hollering from the sidelines when Pedro got fired up. Even when you knew he was spitting mad, it was hard not to crack a smile because he could simultaneously be dressing down an official (or maybe a coach, though not usually) while making so many jokes.

Pedro was truly one of a kind. Over the years, I think I’ve voted for Slim Ingalls time and time again for biggest WC sports supporter (and deservedly so), but Pedro was right there with him. He wanted Warren County to be great in sports and saw his kids and grandchildren excel over the years.

His humbleness and humility were right up there with his humor. He scoffed anytime I talked to him about being one of the best coaches in Warren County history – he’d immediately start listing all the players who, in his opinion, made him a good coach. He didn’t want the spotlight, even if it always had a way of gravitating toward him any time he entered the room.

One of my favorite Pedro lines came when we were discussing baseball early in my sports tenure. At that time, the Pioneers were floundering a bit – definitely not up to the standards set in the 1980 and 1990s or in district and region title contention every year like they’ve been in the last 4-5 years.

As we were talking, Pedro told me he could fix the baseball program in an instant. He said all it would take was a quick trip back to Cuba and then he’d have us some great players when he got back. It was perfect Pedro – he was joking and serious at the same time.

Talking to some family members recently, they recalled how Pedro loved coaching and always had fun with it, even if his players will tell you he was a stickler for discipline as well. His granddaughter shared with me a story about how Pedro told her all his teams were so fast because he would have them chase chickens around the practice field.

I like to think that somebody was around in Warren County back then and somehow relayed that story to a writer in Hollywood who put it in ‘Rocky II’ a few years later. At the very least, I can hear Pedro’s voice now telling his men, “If you can catch a chicken, you can catch greased lightning!!!”

I’ll definitely miss getting a chance to talk to him about sports. He had an honest insight built over decades of being on the front row and watching Warren County sports evolve. He wasn’t afraid to pull punches either – I can only imagine now how great a podcast would have been with Pedro. I would’ve made sure he had a comfortable chair at my table too.

Likewise, I’ll miss Pedro making fun of me every spring when softball season rolled around. It never failed that I would walk by in shorts – because that’s all I ever wear – and Pedro would tell me to go sit somewhere that “I didn’t blind any of the players with the sun’s reflection off my white legs.” It was rite of passage every spring – I knew it was coming and he knew just when to say it so it would get a huge laugh from the crowd.

So many times we talk about honoring people while they’re still around and can hear all the thoughtful things said about them and their lasting legacy. Fortunately, I think Pedro had a few times where that happened before he passed.

I’m glad I was there the night Pedro was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame because I know he felt the love in that room from his family and his former players. It always sticks out to me that anybody who had Pedro as a coach or educator still refer to him as Coach Paz or Mr. Paz. One his former players remarked how he’s in his 60s now and he knows he can call him Pedro, but he’ll “always be coach Paz to me.”

I think he’ll always be Coach Paz to all of Warren County.

My sincerest condolences go out to the Paz family. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Pedro's daughter, Lisa Paz Mason, and his granddaughters, Madison and MaKenna Mason, over the years as they’ve been around sports. My heart goes out to them and all the family. Funeral services will be added to this post as they become available.

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