Thursday, August 04, 2005

Football: Chan Gailey Interview Part I

Our man Chan Gailey was the guest this morning on 790thezone with the Mayhem in the AM guys. I managed to record the show since is was broadcast on CSS-TV, so here's part one of re-cap. I just don't have time to do the whole thing.........While much of the interview was more of the same we've heard, there were a few good quotes from Coach Gailey. Comments about his past coaching career were interesting and we'll get into more of that in part II.......

The interview started talking news, and the loss of Chipper Jones from the Braves. Turns out Chan Gailey is a huge Braves fan, since he was a kid. In talking about the adversity of the Braves, Coach Gailey had the best quote of the interview:

"Don't gripe about what you don't have. Get excited about what you do have"

If ever there were a lesson for Georgia Tech football fans, that would be it. He was talking about the Braves, but I can't help think he was sending a little message.

On coaching kids today, versus life decades ago for kids:

"kids in general are just different. Life is just different. Technology has broadened their horizons, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. These kids know more than we knew. It was kind of fun being ignorant in some respects in those days......... An "R-rated" movie, you wouldn't have thought of anything like that. Now, it's on TV, not even at the movies. They are exposed to so much that their standards are sometimes not the same as what we grew up with"

On NCAA mandates about recruiting rules:

"That is some of the pitfalls of the NCAA rules, that you can't be around these guys as much as you'd like. It's the same old thing. A few guys abuse the rule and everybody gets punished. The rest of us are paying the price."

On the internet and communication and perceptions:

"Right wrong, good or bad, that's the way it is. You have to learn to accept that and a young man has to learn to accept that responsibility. There are some things I did when I was 20 and 21 that I'm glad were not public. I think we all fall into that category, but today it's public. You can't afford to make a mistake, even at 20 or 21 years old, or the whole world hears about it"

On the fact that student-athletes actually get into less trouble than the average college student, but they are more public when it happens:

"We made this big deal in the NCAA, this mandate to treat these football players, or any athletes, just like every other student. Ok, well, everybody else needs to do the same thing. If we've got to give them time off where they're not around us at all or we can't be around them, then just treat them like joe-student. That's all we ask too, but that doesn't happen unfortunately. But if you can't stand the heat, get out the kitchen."

On what age he became passionate about coaching:

"I decided that probably my sophomore year in college. I didn't know how passionate I would be about it. I just knew that my high school coach, Jimmy Hightower, down in Americus GA, had given something to me that was pretty special. I wanted to try to give that back to other kids. Then as time went on I became more and more passionate about winning and seeing kids come together to do something special. That's a pretty unique deal. That's the thing about coaching - taking 85 different personalities, different backgrounds, and seeing if they can come together and do something pretty special that individually they couldn't do apart."

On going from Troy State in 1984 to the Denver Broncos in 85 - was it culture shock?

"Wow, was it ever. It was funny. Dan (Reeves) hired me. The very first meeting I had - I was coaching special teams - Dan and most of the other coaches stood in the back of the room to see if I was going to choke. I guess I did ok, because he didn't come up and take over the meeting."

On getting hired by Dan Reeves:

"I never interviewed. We knew each other from Americus and I was coaching at Air Force Academy when he took the job. I would go up and visit them on a regular basis. Then I left and went to Troy for a couple of years and he hired me back when he had an opening later. It was fun"

On being at some pretty passionate football places (UF, PITT, GT, Dallas, Miami, Denver):

"If you don't care why do you go? Why do you watch it? If you're going to be a part of it, care about it and be passionate about it."

On dealing with alumni, a fan base and keeping perspective:

"Well, coaching is not as fun as it used to be. It's become more of a business, but salaries have gone up, expectations have gone up, everything goes up. It's not nearly as fun and you'd like to think you have the same amount of impact on lives as you used to when you were younger and coaching. You hope you do, but sometimes I'm not sure".

(I tell you, he had a bit of a hard time with that last sentence - watching on TV. You could just tell that it really means something to him to impact young lives, but I saw a hint of doubt in his voice. A bit of the human side of Coach Gailey.)

On the media growth and focus:

"At least it wasn't that big of a deal (back then). Every word, everything that you say now is going to be hashed and re-hashed and dissected. I have to be very guarded and very careful about not only what I say, but how I say it. It's going to get back to the players and anybody else. It's going to be in the other team's lockerroom."

On tirades, with interviewers using the Jim Mora tirade as an example:

"The problem is that you don't remember how good a coach he was. You remember that tirade, that one moment. That's what you remember about Jim Mora and that's the shame of it all."

On health issues and looking good:

"Thanks. I plan to keep off the 30 pounds. I think, like most people, I've been up and down, up and down. But I plan to keep it off this time."

Again, on being a kid then vs now and playing pick-up sports with friends:

"I rode my bike evevywhere. You'd call everybody and meet to play. You'd meet in the field or in the lost. We would pull the lawnmower behind our bike and mow the grass ourselves. It's stuff like that we don't have any more.......... Remember how you used to play half-field? If you hit it on that side of 2nd base it was an out, but the other side was a hit, because you didn't have but 5 guys."

On high school kids and younger:

"We have sophomores and juniors in high school coming to us saying they would love a scholarship, talking about - I work out at such and such and you can call them for references. Call their trainers."

Fifteen years ago you wouldn't have seen that:

"Oh heavens no. Since I was in college the last time, things have changed drastically."

On steroids and supplements:

"We give them the stuff that we know is good to try to either gain weight or lose weight. Most of the time, losing weight is by diet only. Gaining weight we do have some supplements but everything is looked at by our nutritionists, and it covers NCAA rules. We tell kids - take this only - because you don't know what you are going to get from one of those stores that sells something over the counter."

On diet monitoring and nutrition now vs 30 years ago:

"You didn't monitor that stuff back them. If you were over-weight, you ran more. If you were underweight, they said - go back and get another plate. Now, everything is specialized. You have personal trainers, you have nutritionists. You almost feel like we're trying to create the perfect athlete. At the same time, all anyone is trying to do is gain the edge. If I can gain the edge this year over my competition, then I have a chance to be better than he is. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just changed."

On the old days, when you were only tough if you went through an entire practice without water.

"That's my era. We used to have this one towel. Hygenists would pass out if they heard this. But we would dip that one towel in water and pass it around to suck the water out. Not one of us died. Maybe it built up our immunities. Isn't that sick?"

On his heart attack:

"We were playing a 5th game (racquetball). We always played 5 games over at the CRC on campus. I started feeling a little pain in my arm and it kind of moved up to my chest. I sat there - we were about the 4th or 5th point in the game - and I told my partner, Charlie Brown, this isn't right. This isn't smart of me to keep playing. Let me stop. I sat down for a minute and felt a little bit easier. I think I'm going to drive back over there. To Charlie's credit he said - nope, I'm either driving you or we're going next door to the medical center. So we went next door and the medical people took it from there and did a great job......... It was a full blown 100% blockage. I had angioplasty then a stint put in. Dr.Ballard over at Piedmont put a stint in did a super job............. People ask me - was I scared during that whole process? I say no, I wasn't scared, because the EMT's that took from the medical center on campus to the hospital were not panicking. Nobody is the ER was panicking. Everybody did their job and was kind of matter-of-fact about things. They didn't hide anything, but they didn't panic. So I didn't panic either......... It's one of those things where you've got a 400 pound gorilla on your chest and he won't get off. When you have cramp you can kind of twist around to get it to lighten up a bit. You couldn't get this to lighten up, so I knew something was wrong.............. It was actually a blockage. They said that something in that part of the blood vessel erupted and it was like an injury. So my body read it as an injury and rushed clotting agents to stop the bleeding, so to speak, and that's what caused the actual heart-attack - the blockage there"

On changing his habit:

"You know they don't mandate anything. They show you how much fat is in a hotdog and a bowl of ice cream and say - it's your choice what you want to do. I have a wonderful wife who has mandated what I eat and has done a great job of overseeing everying so I can lose weight....... I don't say no to things I like anymore, but instead of eating 4 pieces of pizza or 6 pieces, I eat just one or two now. That's the difference. Portion control."

On traveling to Auburn in the opener:

"Everybody thinks that they lost a lot of those first round draft picks. Guess what - they've got a bunch of good football players back, because I've watched the film on them........... It's the goal for any coach to re-load any year............ You will hear a lot from these guys (young Auburn players) before their careers are over"

On the vote of confidence coaches want from their AD's and D.Braine's statement:

"Let me tell you. It doesn't matter what anybody says. It doesn't matter what you say. We go out there and try to do our very best, whatever that is. I don't look over my shoulder. I don't look behind doors. What I do is try to go out and do the very best and do what's right for the program, what's right for the kids. Other than that, it doesn't matter. If I'm not the right guy, I'm not the right guy. If I am the right guy then I am the right guy."

On assessing the "Chan Gailey era" so far:

"Well, it's obviously not been exactly what we had hoped for. There's been a lot of adversity - things that have hit us in the first 3 years. But if you start talking about that, then it's excuse making and I refuse to do that. We have done the best we could in the circumstances and I think we're building a great program here. I think we have a great product. We have a chance to go much higher, but right now we've haven't gotten there. But that's what we're working for."

Has Reggie Ball been one of your biggest coaching challenges?

"He sure has. Because he has got talent. We've seen him do a lot of great things, but we've seen him do some very poor things. The key is to get him consistent. Again, we have to remember - the guy's only 20 years old. He's started a bunch of football games, but he's still learning to be a good QB. He's got some things to learn and accomplish before he can have that put on him - "good QB"

On the Reggie Ball / Taylor Bennett issue:

"You have to go prove it. Reggie has done a lot of good things, but so has Taylor. I think you have to make sure you keep all your options open. If I say Reggie is the starter and Taylor is the back-up, and we walk out and Taylor plays better in pre-season and Reggie doesn't play as well and we put Taylor in for a series in the ballgame, the next thing is "Gailey says this, but did this". So you leave all your options open, don't paint yourself in a corner and wait to see what happens in pre-season."

How much blame is there for Reggie's decision-making. How much to Reggie, Patrick Nix or you?

"Ultimately, it's my responsibility. I'm the one that puts him on the field and has him playing QB for this team. Patrick Nix is a great football coach in my opinion. I think - I've heard - now I don't read everything or listen to everything, but I've heard he's taken some hits on things and that's unfair in my opinion. Very unfair."

After the UGA game, Nix was one of the guys that took heat:

"Was everything perfect in that? No. There was a mistake made. Everybody owned up to their responsibility to that. But ultimately it's my responsibility to put the right people in the right place to do the job. That's what we're trying to do. It's tough out there some days to make every perfect decision. Again, I'm just glad that everything I did when I was 20 was not scrutinized."