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John Gagliardi, college football's all-time winningest coach, retires

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by Small Town Guy, Nov 19, 2012.

  1. Small Town Guy

    Small Town Guy Well-Known Member

    He's 86. 489 victories. 64 years as a coach, 60 at St. John's in Minnesota.


    Also famous for "winning with no's," the most famous being no tackling in practice.

    I'm a St. John's grad. Didn't play football but did take Theory of Football with him, which was an absolute blast.

    One of my favorite tidbits in a career that's practically impossible to summarize is that he was never an assistant. He took over his high school team when their coach went off to WWII. Then became a college coach right out of school. Also liked that he never wanted to be called coach. Everyone, even the players, called him John.

    A guy who's long been rumored to be the next coach is Bud Grant's kid, Mike, who was on one of Gagliardi's national title teams. He's the coach of the most dominant big-school high school program in Minnesota (also uses Gagliardi's "no" coaching techniques). But that's been a rumor for 15 years now and Grant himself is now in his mid-50s.

    Here's a typical Gagliardi speech. If you saw him over the years some of the lines were like classic Stones songs; you went in expecting them and had heard them before. But I still always enjoyed them.

  2. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    As an alum of SJU's biggest rival it's sad to hear this even if it was inevitable. There will never be another one like him.

    It will be interesting to see who winds up with the job. The story says they will conduct a national search but Grant is the most likely successor. His name has been tossed around as the heir apparent as far back as the late 80s.
  3. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    Sad to hear. I've always enjoyed Austin Murphy's book on Gagliardi and St. John's. My favorite stories were him trying to get a gnat out of his ear by leaning against a car headlight, and him deciding to cancel the last half-hour of practice because guys kept getting hurt.

    I also liked his saying of "Ordinary people doing ordinary things extraordinarily well," and his other story of the championship he won in the 1970s when the other team came out and did perfect calisthenics while his team just stumbled around.
  4. Boom_70

    Boom_70 Well-Known Member

    Good thing they didn't tackle then if guys were getting hurt in no contact practices.
  5. mateen

    mateen Active Member

    Small Town Guy, maybe you can answer a question I've always had: does the no-hitting thing really apply from the first day of practice every year? I see the merits to that philosophy in general, and don't doubt that football practices have historically been much more barbaric than they need to be, but isn't it kind of hard to determine who your best football players really are without some contact? Or is that just part of the philosphy - it's just Division III football, not war, and we'll let the games sort things out?
  6. Small Town Guy

    Small Town Guy Well-Known Member

    Boom, I know we've chatted back and forth about this before, but now I picture Gagliardi interviewing with you for his next job:

    "Look, coach. And I'm gonna call you coach because a football coach is a title of prestige and I'm not just going to call you John. Think Hornung ever said, 'Hey, Vince.' I think we're going to pass on you and it has nothing to do with your age. 489-138-11 is good work. Four national titles is all right. You guys beat Prairie View A&M for a title when they were loaded with future NFL players including Otis Taylor and that's nice. You guys ended the longest winning streak in college football history when you beat Mount Union in 2003. And yeah Mount has been held under 10 points once since 1995 and that was against your defense. Nice. But damn it, this no-tackling in practice? No whistles? No tackling dummies in practice? No calisthenics? That ain't football. I'm not saying you and the New York Times are conspiring to ruin the game of football, it's just that I don't think it's the right way to coach the game and, more importantly, I'm just not sure it's a way that leads to victories. So we're going with someone else."
  7. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    Yeah, they were pulling hamstrings and spraining ankles and stuff like that.

    Murphy also wrote that they wouldn't practice outside if the grass was too wet from either rain or morning dew. They'd go in a gym and do a walkthrough.
  8. Small Town Guy

    Small Town Guy Well-Known Member

    Mateen, It's the first day to the last day. I noted above that Mike Grant does it in high school and wins the state title every other year. They actually do more hitting in high school because there they have to teach tackling technique a bit more.

    I actually think -- though obviously this is impossible to prove - that the philosophy would work better the higher level you go, because the athletes do get better and better. It is D3 but St. John's (until last 2 years...) has gotten great D3 athletes. So his philosophy is why spend time on ridiculous drills like bear crawl, tires, tackling dummies, or tackling in practice. They teach defenders how to get into position but then rely on them already knowing how to tackle.

    In practice they just run play after play after play. Practices are never more than 90 minutes because they don't waste time on the things everyone thinks they need to do because it's been done forever. They teach technique on blocking and tackling but don't do the full-on tackling in practice. They do have "contact" in that defense and offense are in shoulder pads and go as hard as they can during practices. It's pretty good speed they go at. No one thinks it will work, and then the players get there and start doing it and think, why doesn't everyone do this?

    As for identifying the best players, that can be tough. And sometimes it does take a kid excelling on special teams during the actual games for him to get a look on offense or defense. And historically, that first series of the year or first few the defense was on the field in a game were always interesting because it was their first full on contact. But even with just shoulder pads, the athletes do stand out. You do see their speed or agility.

    He's got a million quotes but a favorite of mine:

    I spoke with a former Johnnie player who's now an NFL scout and he was skeptical that it could work at, say, the NFL, although as the season progresses, teams do cut way back on full-contact. Gagliardi's idea is, if it's okay for the last month of the year, why not the entire season? Of course, the other great thing with Gagliardi is that he never cared if anyone bought into it or if it'd work elsewhere. He always said he wasn't looking for converts.
  9. Small Town Guy

    Small Town Guy Well-Known Member

    he's giving a press conference now:

    McNally, member of first NFL Hall of Fame class, was coach at SJU before Gagliardi. He told Gagliardi no one could ever win at St. John's because monks were too cheap.
  10. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    Except there are some great Johnny Blood stories from his playing days.

    My fave was one where Blood wanted to hang out with some teammates in their hotel room, but the teammates didn't want him there so they told him to leave.

    Few minutes later, they saw him looking in their hotel window from a ledge that was multiple stories off the ground. They let him in.
  11. mateen

    mateen Active Member

    Thanks for the answer. I'd always wondered about how they handled kids who looked great when there was no hitting but weren't as tough/psychotic/stupid/choose your adjective when contact was thrown in, but I suppose it's the case that (a) that winnowing out has occurred in youth football and players who makes it to St. John's aren't going to shrivel up, and (b) you would figure out pretty quickly when the games started who should be out there. Also, it probably helped that for most of his run Gagliardi's teams were so good that second-, third-, and fourth-team players saw action in blowouts, which served as glorified practices in which they could see underclassmen in live situations.
  12. Boom_70

    Boom_70 Well-Known Member

    Great stuff STG. As far as replacement wouldn't it be likely that his son would get the job. Is he the still the offensive coordinator?
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