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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Whom to play for?

The final game of the ACC men's basketball tournament is on now. For readers in Alabama, Duke vs UNC in basketball here is comparable to Alabama vs Auburn in football there. There isn't much traffic on the streets... except for discomfited NC State fans who wonder what happened again this year.

I had the pleasure of editing the sports section of the Georgia Tech student newspaper for two years, during which I learned a lot about college athletics. Today I'm thinking of five coaches whom I had the pleasure to meet. These are guys that I would happily have played for, if I had had the talent and the drive.

1. Al McGuire, baskeball coach, Marquette, 1964-1977. Smart, upbeat, loquacious man who loved his players, loved his school, and loved his sport. His enthusiasm was inspiring, his teams won consistently, and he retired at the top.

2. Paul Dietzel, football coach, South Carolina, 1966-1974. I met him near the end of his career as a coach, and even I could tell he was tiring of it. But his understanding of sports and his positive attitude towards his players were beyond question.

3. Vince Dooley, football coach, Georgia, 1964-1988. Thoughtful, highly regarded by his peers, and an excellent administrator (25 years as AD!) during a time of great change in college athletics. Could motivate his players magnificently without getting in their faces too much.

4. Bill Beavers, gymnastics coach, Georgia Tech, 1971-1987. Bet you've never heard of him. Yes, he's the only Georgia Tech coach to make my list. His webpage characterizes him better than I can.

5. John McKay, football coach, Southern California, 1960-1975. The Robin Williams of coaching. The trick in sport is to take it seriously without taking it too seriously. McKay was the all-time master of that.