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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

July 30, 2007 at 2:17 PM

Willingham pays tribute to Walsh

Today was Washington’s annual media golf outing where some of us get to play with UW coaches and other Husky staffers.
It’s a fun affair that is meant to be informal, meaning it’s not really the time to start grilling anyone about game plans, depth charts, etc., so it’s not usually anything any of us really write about.
But UW coach Tyrone Willingham did mention to all of us afterward that he had been called today and told that Bill Walsh died today, and he told us how much Walsh had meant to his career. Since I didn’t have a notebook or anything with me, I don’t have any exact quotes.
But the thrust of it is that the two had a good relationship and were still close — in fact, Willingham said he was in the Bay Area Sunday to see visit Walsh.
I wrote a little about the relationship between the two in this story in 2005, detailing how Willingham was an intern for the 49ers in 1987 as part of the team’s minority coaches program, something Walsh helped initiate. Willingham has often called it one of his big breaks and said today that he thinks he was helped by the program as much as anyone.
The two then later became connected forever as coaches at Stanford — Willingham succeeded Walsh following the 1994 season.
I talked to Walsh for a while in getting the quotes for that story I wrote two years ago and he was very laudatory of Willingham. I remember him telling me how he knew Willingham was sometimes criticized for his seeming lack of personality, and how he quickly defended Willingham on that mark.
“He’s strictly a professional and he has only one thought in his mind and that is to win football games,” Walsh said at the time. “Some of the other trappings of being a head coach are just not important to him and I would think that’s what (Washington) needs right now. ”
Walsh also predicted success for Willingham at UW, saying Willingham “is what Washington desperately needs right now. … They need a sound, fundamental coach who can get people playing just solid football and then from there, let the talent take over. He may not have the talent this year and it may take a couple of years, but he will turn it around.”
UPDATE: Here’s a statement from Willingham on Walsh released by the school today:
“The World lost a great man in Bill Walsh. He had a tremendous impact on me, both personally and professionally. Coaches throughout all levels of football have lost an innovator and teacher who had a truly significant impact on the game. Very few people will be able to say they were able to change the course of history. Bill’s development of the minority coaching program at the collegiate and professional levels literally changed the face of football. His sphere of influence was significantly greater than any coach of his time. He will truly be missed.”
ONE MORE UPDATE: Here’s more on Willingham’s visit to Walsh yesterday from the Palo Alto Online News. As the story details, Willingham and Stanford benefactor John Arrillaga presented Walsh with the Stagg Award for his contributions to football.

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