Remarks from Washington coach Steve Sarkisian on Monday about legendary UW coach Don James:
“I think it goes without saying we lost a legend, and not just here at the University of Washington but in college football and all around football. Coach James set a standard of excellence that is felt here every single day. We had him speak to our team every year since I’ve been here.
“Being a young head coach, I’ve leaned on a lot of examples that he set. He became a head coach at the age of 39. And I was able to lean on him from some of the experiences he had as a young head coach that he was able to share with me that I’ve tried to put into action. I have a picture of Coach James and I in my office prior to the Holiday Bowl and it’s something I look at, quite honestly, every single day before I leave my office. It wasn’t a planned photo. It was one that was caught spontaneously, and something I cherish today and will cherish forever. … If you remember, going into that Holiday Bowl, we had been beaten by Nebraska by 35 points earlier in the season in Husky Stadium. We went to the Holiday Bowl and were on a nationally televised game and we were behind another game that was in overtime, so the kickoff time had gotten pushed back and pushed back. Everybody was antsy on the field to get the game started. I had walked over to Coach James and we shook hands and we talked for a minute. He just had a unique, quiet confidence about him that I’m sure his players and coaches felt from him. He had an aura of, ‘We’re going to go win and we’re going to play really well.’ And I felt it then from him. … It really resonated with me, the impact that you can have. It’s not always about the words that you say, but it’s truly who you are and what you represent, and I’ve tried to really carry that with me. …
“He had a tremendous amount of respect in the coaching community. We’ve seen that from the remarks being made by not only (former) head coaches but present-day head coaches and the respect that they’ve had for him and the impact that he’s had on the game of football, especially in the college ranks.
“He obviously had an impact on the players that played for him, the coaches that coached with him, but (also) on the entire University of Washington and our community. The impact that he left and the legacy that he left here is something that’s unparalleled. The one thing, from a personal note that stands out to me, and it got mentioned to me by Gertrude Peoples, who was here from the beginning of Coach James, and how (James) treated people, regardless of your title, regardless of what your name was, he treated you with respect. That’s something I’ve tried to emulate that he’s definitely passed on to me. I will say I’ve had the chance to visit with Carol a couple of times over the last 24 hours, and obviously our thoughts and prayers are with Carol and the James family.
“He’s spoken to every team since I’ve been here. I don’t know if there’s a more iconic figure in Seattle, and obviously when you speak of the University of Washington football program.
“I think it is fitting that this week is homecoming and we have an amazing opportunity to celebrate Coach James in a very tasteful manner. We’ll do our best to get that done obviously Saturday at the ballgame and then Sunday at the ballgame. He’ll be missed and left a tremendous impact on a lot of lives here. Hopefully we can carry it on.”