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The Oklahoman: Coaching graybeards prove experience counts


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Coaching graybeards prove experience counts


By Berry Tramel

The Oklahoman


In the last year, the Dallas Cowboys hired Bill Parcells, the San Francisco Giants hired Felipe Alou, the Memphis Grizzlies hired Hubie Brown and the Florida Marlins hired Jack McKeon.

Let's take roll. The Cowboys made the playoffs. So did the Giants. The Grizzlies no longer are horrible. The Marlins won the World Series.

Is it any wonder the Washington Redskins hired Joe Gibbs?

Suddenly, senior citizens are all the rage in sport. Men who reached adulthood in the Eisenhower administration, or before, are showing lads born in the '80s how to win ball games.

And don't expect it to stop. Need a baseball manager? You can do worse than Sparky Anderson, who's 69 and retired for nine years. A football coach? How about Marv Levy, not a day older than 75, who might not win you a Super Bowl but can lose one with the best of 'em.

Don't laugh. On his Web site, Levy, six years removed from coaching the Buffalo Bills, is politicking for a NFL job. His old Buffalo office is empty, you know.

And why not? The graying of America means we've got surplus talent that shouldn't sit on the shelf just because of date of birth.

John Glenn was 77 when he flew in space awhile back. From what I'm told, Diane Keaton, 58 years young, did a nude scene in the just-released "Something's Gotta Give." Walter Cronkite remains our most trusted man.

Experience counts these days. Experience offers security. You know what you're getting when you buy a Beatles CD, and you know what you're getting when you hire Gibbs or Parcells.

"If you can hire Joe Gibbs, why wouldn't you? If you can hire Parcells, why not?"

Those words were spoken by a fellow snowbird, Bob Knight, who himself returned from hiatus to invigorate Texas Tech basketball.

Knight said he called Dallas owner Jerry Jones after the hiring of Parcells and said, "That's as good a move as you will ever make."

Knight, 63, even calls it the second-best coaching hire of all time, any sport. And no, No. 1 did not come at Texas Tech. Knight's numero uno is Red Auerbach's decision to replace himself with Bill Russell as coach of the Celtics.

Almost all the veteran comebacks have in common a siesta. Some were short, like the one-year void of Knight and Eddie Sutton. Some were intermediate, like Parcells (three). Some were an eternity, like Dick Vermeil (14 years), Gibbs (11 years) and Brown (16).

Sutton long has championed a year layoff for coaches in their 50s. "You really get your batteries recharged and come back with a lot more enthusiasm," Sutton said. "You see that even at the pro level."

Knight is a prime example. Said Sutton: "His teams are playing so much better here than they did the last four or five years at Indiana. The way they play defense, running their offense."

Knight figures more schools should look to veteran coaches. Knight says if he was going to hire a football coach in the last 15 years, former Michigan icon Bo Schembechler "would have had to say no to me."

The tried and proven are a comfort to a sports organization. There are no surprises with a Bill Parcells or a Bob Knight or a Jack McKeon. Other than how much they will win. That very much might surprise you.

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From what I'm told, Diane Keaton, 58 years young, did a nude scene in the just-released "Something's Gotta Give."

TMI on the Diane Keaton thing. I'm sure he could've used a better example.

What's also funny is his disavowal of any personal knowledge that she did a scene in the buff -- "from what I'm told."

Yeah, right.

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The age and experience of the assistant coaches next year will prove to be the key differences between the Spurrier years and Gibbs'.

One thing to have a quirky, flaky guy as your head coach. That can still succeed provided that the assistants are good enough, and provide the coverage in the spots where the HC is weak. The problem with Spurrier is that he had weak assistants who couldn't cover his weaknesses.

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