He smiles at hearing his storytelling described. “I do have a photographic memory, and that helps tell a story,” he says. He liked to write as a kid, but his storytelling skills grew sharper much later when he covered the Olympics on television. “Americans could care less about players from other countries,” he says. “So you had to make them care. You had to tell them stories about people they knew nothing about. You had to make players nobody cared about come to life.”
Which makes sense, as does the fact that we’re now talking about his grandchildren, though I have no idea how we got here. Maybe it’s because we were talking about storytelling, which is what grandfathers do best. The coach has two grown children and four grandchildren. Maybe you’ve seen one or two of the grandkids trailing after him on TV after a game or a practice. “I live for them,” he says, employing a rare economy of words. And then, turning all smiley and Pop-Pop-like, he tells me how one grandkid is shy, another is more outgoing, how all four are unique, really, and because of this he’s learned to approach each of them differently.
I find it hardly necessary to point out that he’s also describing how he interacts with his team.
He says dealing with players as individuals, caring about them—and, yes, even loving them—comes easier to him at this age because he sees a bigger picture now. He doesn’t worry about job security or getting all the credit, things that made him jittery as a younger coach.