Nick Saban, Gary Pinkel reflect on Don James' death
Posted by: Chris Vannini on Monday October 21, 2013
Hall of Fame coach Don James passed away Sunday due to pancreatic cancer, but his legacy and teachings have lived on through many former players and colleagues. He was 80 years old.
James was the winningest coach in Washington history, capturing a share of the 1991 national championship. Before going to Seattle, he spent four years at Kent State in his first head-coaching role.
There, he coached Nick Saban and Gary Pinkel, who both later worked for him. After James’ passing, the two reflected on his impact. Saban called James one of the most influential people in his life.
“We probably all have three or four significant people in our life that you say having a relationship with this person really impacted the direction of my life, the quality of my life,” Saban said at his Monday press conference. “A lot of personal decisions I made philosophically, the way you live your life, the way you do your job, all kinds of things get affected by those people, Don James was certainly one of those people for me. I have as much respect for him as a person and as a coach, the job that he did, the organization he has.
“To this day, a lot of the things I learned being a graduate assistant and player for him are still things that we implement in our program philosophically. I spoke to him a couple weeks ago and told him that. He kind of laughed about it. I said, ‘I used to hate to run progressives at Monday practice. Our players hate it too, but we still do it.’ That’s something I did as a player we still do now.
“There are a lot of things like that, whether it’s recruiting, how to manage players, the whole idea of trying to help the players be successful as people, really probably came from Coach James and to try to develop a program that helps them do that, the discipline to do that all came from him. Our thoughts our prayers are certainly with he and his family.”
Pinkel released a statement on his website and credited all of his success to James.
“It’s hard to put into words how much it hurts to lose a man like Don James,” Pinkel wrote. “He was my coach, my mentor, my friend, and he had such an amazing influence on my life, both personally and professionally. The program we built at Toledo and here at Missouri is Don James’ program, it’s a tribute to how he developed men and built football teams.
“This is a tough, tough day, and I’m so sorry for his wife, Carol, and the James family, as well as the entire Washington Huskies family. Coach James was a legend, and if I’m remembered for anything, I hope that it might be that I helped carry his legacy forward.”
Update: Here is Sark talking about Don James.