Onward: Bill Walsh (1931-2007)


Three years ago, I had the privilege of appearing on a panel with Bill Walsh. Fittingly, it was during a conference on diversity at Stanford University, my alma mater. It was also the site of some of Walsh’s greatest triumphs, where he achieved greatness even before he was discovered by the NFL.

The experience prompted an epiphany, the realization that Walsh, perhaps the most influence football icon of my generation, was in fact a true civil-rights pioneer. When it was not de regieur, when there was no Rooney Rule, Walsh quietly (or not so) made a way when others would not.

When black coaches were a looooong way from the Super Bowl triumph of ’07, 2o years long ago, in fact, Walsh sought to right a wrong by inviting black coached INSIDE his sanctum. He invited hem to sit in on meetings and learn many of the innovative things he was imparting. Among the coaches who participated in what came to be called the Minority Coaching Fellowship were Tyrone Willingham, former Stanford head coach and current head coach at the University of Washington; Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, Kansas City head coach Herm Edwards and several NFL assistants. The NFL later co-opted the fellowship into a league-wide program. Dennis Green was also a pupil.

So as we mourn him, let’s recognize Bill Walsh as one of the most influential figures in sports when it comes to opening the doors for blacks. In reality, he may be the most influential white man in the history of sports.

RIP, Coach.

The Bill Walsh Coaching Tree: Click here

Click here for a look at the memorial service for Bill Walsh at Stanford.


12 thoughts on “Onward: Bill Walsh (1931-2007)

  1. CDR Wyndell Patterson says:

    Thanks Roy. So often, it is those very things done in shadows, behind the scenes, with no fanfair that make all the difference! The more I know about this man, the more I realize that he was blessed with a genius for sports, a brilliance for education and most importantly a heart after God’s own.

  2. Urla Hill says:

    Even though I adored the Dallas Cowboys during the Bill Walsh era with the San Francisco ’49ers, I was a huge Bill Walsh fan. The last time I saw him was at the funeral of Robert Bronzan, his college coach at San Jose State College, and I asked him for an autograph for a friend who hopped on the Niners’ bandwagon during the time period Walsh coached.

    I then went over to speak to Coach Bronzan’s wife, and she told me that Coach Bronzan spoke to Coach Walsh the day before he died, and Coach Walsh told him that he would see him soon . . . I lost it.

    Wyndell Patterson is right . . . Coach Walsh’s heart was modelled “after God’s own.”

  3. Even a diehard Raiders fan can appreciate Walsh’s genius. One of the all time greats.

  4. OMAR says:

    Didn’t consider the depth of Walsh’s legacy until now.

  5. Thanks Roy for the great article. Coach Walsh was an incredible human being. In a career paved with championships, he was smart enough to hire the best coaches, regardless of race, to help him succeed. Thanks to Bill Walsh, we know that coaching greatest can measured by something other than made-for-ESPN antics. His spirit lives on through his players and assistant coaches and everyone who appreciates great coaching.

  6. Paul Mason says:

    An important detail left unreported by almost all journalist I read who reported on Walsh’s death. Thanks to passtheword for passing such an important note on the passing of such a great man.

  7. […] Onward: Bill Walsh (1931-2007) [image] Three years ago, I had the privilege of appearing on a panel with Bill Walsh. Fittingly, it was during a […] […]

  8. Rick Barraza says:

    Bill Walsh, one of the greatest ever to walk a sideline. Memories of him wearing a headset, motioning for Joe Montana to come back to the sidelines while coming out of a timeout for one last piece of information before returning to the huddle. It was as if Bill was putting the last touch on a painting before saying, “There, take a look at that”. Then Montana hits Rice over the middle for a touchdown. Voila.
    Thanks Bill for all the many memories. Thanks for making me proud to love the Niners, even when they were unloveable early on.

  9. R. Pick says:

    Bill Walsh not only won three Super Bowls during his ten-year career, he also won 102 regular season games, and 10 playoff games. The man was a winner, and when he retired, he did so as the consensus best coach in football.
    Walsh’s football intellect was evident early on, and when he led the 49ers over the Dallas Cowboys in the 1980 NFC Championship Game two things occurred; first, the 49ers supplanted the Cowboys as the team to beat in the NFC; secondly, Walsh surpassed Cowboy coach Tom Landry as the top football mind in the sport. Even when he retired way too early, Walsh’s influence continued to dominate the sport as his disciples and his west-coast offense spread throughout the NFL. Walsh the man will be missed, but his presence will be felt and seen every time a QB lines up to run the west-coast offense.

  10. daryl says:

    A great coach and disciple of the late Paul Brown. He continued Paul Brown’s coaching legacy with one of Paul’s favorite plays, split right option. Bill Walsh not only taught the best, but he was discipled by the best. He was a coaches coach. Football will miss Bill Walsh.

  11. Joeffrey says:

    The struggles of a people are often supported by angels God places in strategic places………God Bless- coach

  12. wyn says:

    what about Dante Moore, SR. Have you read his book, “The Re-education of the Female”. Just met the brother in my office today and wanted to know if you heard of him and his street cred.

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