I thought it fitting to provide the world with ABC/ESPN’s Joe Paterno montage from 2008, as College Football slams back into action this weekend. JoePa has become not only synonymous with the Pennsylvania State University, but with College Football as well. Paterno has held his position at PSU since 1966, and in that time he has acquired the record for the most victories by an FBS football coach and has more bowl game victories than any other coach in collegiate football history. His numbers will certainly live on in dusty record books (or on dusty hard drives, I suppose), but it is his demeanor and his spirit that cannot be contained by simple statistics.
The best coaches are like that. They have the it factor, the ineffable thing that makes young men and women willing to follow and be shaped. How do we describe the ‘best’ coaches? Do we measure them by their records, or their effect on those who passed under them? Of course it is both when coaches are considered in historical perspective, but the true effect they imprint on the lives of men and women, from grasshopper soccer league to elite level competition, is where their greatness (or the genius) lies.
Here are two other examples:
Pat Summitt is currently the Tennessee Lady Vols Women’s Basketball head coach. Summitt is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, men or women in any division. She is also one of only three collegiate coaches with 1,000 victories.
“She taught me that it’s OK to let down your guard and allow your players to get to know you. They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Pat Summitt
John Wooden (1910-2010), was the first person ever to be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. While at the helm at UCLA, he led the Bruins to 10 national championships in 12 seasons – a feat unmatched by any other college basketball coach.
“The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.” – John Wooden
Coaches drum up the sometimes-dormant passion in all of us. They can coax out the last inch, the last breath – down to the last bead of sweat – athletes have within themselves. But I think a coach’s reach extends beyond the lines, out of the locker room and sweat-stinking weight rooms into the stands, the TV sets and, most importantly, the hearts and souls of the fans, who stand behind their leaders with as much vigor as any competitor.