The college coaching fraternity lost a living legend Sunday morning with the passing of former Washington head coach Don James.
In a fitting tribute, two branches of his extensive coaching tree, who also happen to be the head coaches at two of the Top Five teams in the country right now, issued statements expressing what the man known as the Dawgfather meant to them both professionally and personally.
Alabama’s Nick Saban and Missouri’s Gary Pinkel played their college football at Kent State under James, who coached the Golden Flashes prior to his 18-year run with the Huskies. Saban in particular has long credited James as being the impetus for his career in coaching.
Both Saban’s and Pinkel’s statements addressing the loss of the beloved coach appear below, beginning with former’s:
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Coach James’ family. He was a special man and meant the world to me. There aren’t enough words to describe not only the great coach he was, but how much he cared for people and the positive impact he made in the lives of everyone he came in contact with.
“Coach James was my mentor and probably did more than anybody to influence me in this profession. Like I’ve said before, I didn’t plan on going into coaching. He saw something in me and asked me to stay on at Kent State as a graduate assistant after my playing career was over. I really enjoyed it, got hired full-time and went on from there.
From an organizational standpoint, our program today is run much like he ran his program. He was very organized, efficient, and did an outstanding job of defining expectations for players, coaches and everyone in the organization.
He was always personal and inspirational to players and people around him. He wanted you to reach your full potential as a football player, but more importantly, he wanted you to do well in school and become the best person you could be so you would be successful in life. He was the same way when it came to assistant coaches or anyone who worked for him, you were a better person because of the time you spent with Coach James.”
“It’s hard to put into words how much it hurts to lose a man like Don James. 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.”