Man Behind the Whistle: Part 3. Sports

The Man Behind the Whistle: Part 3: “Wide World of Sports”

Red Wolves’ fans come to this website to find out about everything there is to know about ASU athletics. Nobody comes here to get updates on degree programs being offered by the university. So, with that in mind, this is the segment of our series that takes the coaching staff back into sports to see who they follow and how sports has influenced their lives. We are all sports’ fans and the guys on the sidelines at The Vault are no different. So let’s take a look behind the whistle and find out more about the Red Wolves’ coaches.

Growing up and playing sports is as American as apple pie. When you’re young and out on the courts or on the playing fields of your hometown, there’s always that superstar you look up to and try to emulate. Everybody has a favorite athlete they follow or followed when they were growing up. The Air Jordan shoe brand wouldn’t exist unless thousands of people were fans of Michael Jordan. Defensive Line coach, Brian Early, Cornerbacks coach Trooper Taylor, and Head Coach Blake Anderson count themselves as fans of Jordan. Other stars from the NBA that played against Jordan include Magic Johnson, the favorite of Director of Player Personnel, Dave Roberson, as well as Larry Bird, the favorite of Offensive Graduate Assistant, Kyle Cefalo. Another superstar who many people consider the Michael Jordan of golf is Tiger Woods. You can count Safeties coach, Allen Johnson, among those that tune in every week he’s playing to see what he’ll do next. It’s baseball season and if you’re a San Francisco Giants fan you’re eager to see who will hit a homerun into McCovey Cove, named after Willie McCovey, the all-time favorite athlete of Tight Ends coach, Dan Dodd. In the football world, Defensive Graduate Assistant, Larry Hart, loves watching Dwight Freeney and Director of Football Operations, Jason Andrews, considers Joe Montana his favorite athlete of all time. Keeping with the football theme, Offensive Line coach, Glen Elarbee, said his favorite athlete of all time is basically any offensive lineman you mention.

Not every coach has a conventional favorite. Defensive Graduate Assistant John Mohring admires the pitching of Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn and his unique haircut. Speaking of hair, Offensive Coordinator Walt Bell and Wide Receivers coach Luke Paschall, both of whom take a lot of pride in having salon-quality hair, admire the masterful skills and hair stylings of the bowling legend, Big Ern McCracken, who famously said, “You’re on a gravy train with biscuit wheels.”

One thing is for sure with this staff; they are sports’ guys and they are as competitive as they come. Trust me, Coach Anderson was dialed into beating me in ping pong at 11pm one night last fall. There was no taking it easy on his guest. I doubt highly, however, that his victory on his home table would rank up there as one of his favorite sports’ memories in his life. With that in mind, let’s see what sports’ memories would rank high with this staff. For Coach Anderson, defeating an undefeated Houston team, one that everybody was picking to go to a BCS bowl in 2011, to win the Conference USA Championship tops his list, although, the overtime win over Utah State last season isn’t far behind. Championships are hard to beat and for Jason Andrews, being in the locker room after his Tar Heels won the 2009 National Championship in basketball was definitely his ‘One Shining Moment.’ Another big championship that Coach Cefalo ranks up there is the Red Sox 2004 World Series title. Running Backs coach, Anthony Tucker, counts the undefeated championship season his high school football team accomplished during his senior year as his favorite moment. Senior seasons can provide special moments and that proved to be true for Defensive Graduate Assistant, Micah James, whose favorite memory was defeating Troy on Senior Day for the first time in 7 years. Coach Johnson fondly remembers getting 3 interceptions in one game while Coach Trooper Taylor won’t soon forget when his son, Blaise, returned a punt for a touchdown last season and then jumped into his father’s arms as he came off the field. Other coaching moments that stand out include Coach Dodd’s memories of defeating USC in the 1998 Sun Bowl, and Coach Roberson coaching at Penn State when they beat Ohio State in the Shoe. Defensive Coordinator Joe Cauthen’s favorite moment was being a proud papa as he watched Dakota hit a big 2-run double in the All-Star game. Originally Coach Bell felt that Big Ern McCracken’s big win in the 1996 Open was his favorite sports’ moment, but that was recently erased by a spectacular trip to Las Vegas for UFC 189.

Your sports’ idols or favorite moments in sports can have profound impacts on your life. In the case of coaches they can impact your career. However, more important than those factors are the people in your life who may have helped you along the way to get you to where you are today. For many of the coaches at ASU that person was a family member. Coach Early, Coach Cauthen, Coach Trooper Taylor, and Coach Mohring credit their fathers with having the biggest influence on their careers. Coach Cefalo and Coach Dodd count both parents as having influenced where they are today, and Coach Hart looked to his older brother for guidance.

For a lot of guys it was a coach at some point in their lives that impacted them the most. Coach Elarbee counts current Texas Offensive Line coach, Joe Wickline, as the person in his life that helped guide him, while Coach Paschall and Coach James both feel that Coach Elarbee has had a big impact on their careers. Jason Andrews credits Hall-of-Fame basketball coach, Roy Williams, as having the biggest influence on his career. Coach Roberson’s high school coach, Al West, helped make him the coach is he is today. For Coach Tucker it was Detroit Lions’ Wide Receivers coach, Robert Prince, and high school coach, Thadd Macneal. Former Texas A&M-Commerce coach, Mark Copeland, is the man who most influenced Coach Johnson’s career. Coach Bell said that current UNC Head Coach, Larry Fedora, and Coach Anderson have had great impacts on his career, but his life was also heavily influenced by his father, Butch Bell. Coach Anderson credits current North Texas coach, Scottie Conley, Coach Fedora, and Iowa Offensive Coordinator, Greg Davis as the guys who have most influenced his coaching career.

There were a lot of great coaches named above who influenced the Red Wolves’ staff, but like typical football fans they have favorite football coaches too. Paul Bryant gets on the board as Coach Bell’s favorite coach. Another legend, Joe Paterno, is the man for Coach Roberson. While Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler are Coach Dodd’s favorite coaches. Former Baylor Head Coach, Grant Teaff, told me he once went to Cuero, Texas to look at a potential recruit. He ended up noticing a driven, hard-working player who “never met a word he didn’t like” and knew right then he needed to have that guy on his team. That guy was Trooper Taylor and Coach Teaff is his favorite coach.

NFL coaches are prevalent on this list as well, including former Dallas Cowboys’ legend, Tom Landry, the favorite for Coach Cauthen and Coach Anderson. The man with perfect hair, Jimmy Johnson, is the Red Wolves’ Coach Johnson’s man. Coach Cefalo stays true to his New England themed favorites and lists Bill Belichick as his favorite all-time football coach. Former Steelers’ coach, Bill “The Chin” Cowher, kept Pittsburgh’s tradition of strong defense alive, and that is one reason Coach Hart is a big fan. Comedian Frank Caliendo’s best impression going these days is the one he does of Jon Gruden. Gruden has made a successful transition into the press box but one of the reasons he’s great to listen to is the experience he can draw on from his coaching career, of which Coach Early counts high on his list. Gruden was a disciple of Bill Walsh and once replaced Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay. Walsh and Dungy are the guys Coach Tucker likes most. Last, but certainly not least, particularly in the brownie points category, Jason Andrews lists his boss, Blake Anderson, as his all-time favorite football coach. Hmmmm, that’s convenient.

There were a lot of NFL coaches listed as their favorites so let’s keep the “favorite” theme going and see what NFL teams this staff grew up cheering for most. The leader in the clubhouse is the Dallas Cowboys, who can count Coach Cauthen, Coach Trooper Taylor, Coach Johnson, and Coach Anderson among their biggest fans. Coach Bell is an Oakland Raiders’ fan, mainly because he always loves the bad guys. Pregame running buddies, Coach Mohring and Coach Cefalo, love that the “Hoodie” coaches their favorite team, the New England Patriots. The Philadelphia Eagles, hated by most, somehow became Coach James’ favorite team so it must get interesting in the football offices during Eagles/Cowboys’ games. San Diego gets some love from Coach Dodd, who said he and his daughter love cheering for the Chargers. After witnessing his intensity on the sidelines, I’m not surprised that Coach Paschall is a Steelers’ fan. The Steelers’ rival, the Baltimore Ravens, can count on Coach Hart’s support. Don’t mention missed field goals to Coach Roberson as some childhood nightmares might resurface from his days cheering for his favorite team, the Buffalo Bills. Jason Andrews counts hometown team, the Carolina Panthers, as his favorite team. Some consider Coach Elarbee a quiet, laid back dude, so it makes sense that he likes the Atlanta Falcons, one of the most Switzerland-like teams in the NFL. Speaking of neutrality, Coach Tucker doesn’t have a favorite team and Coach Early only likes college teams, except for any teams that show up on the Red Wolves’ schedule.

One thing you learn quickly after spending time with college football coaches is that they have little time in their lives that does not involve football. Away from the stadium what other sports do these guys get into? Baseball is a popular choice with Coach Early, Coach Elarbee, Coach Cauthen, Coach Cefalo, and Coach Dodd. Basketball catches the attention of Coach Hart, Coach Paschall, Coach James, Coach Trooper Taylor, Coach Mohring, and Coach Anderson, who is rumored to have a mean jump shot. Some of these guys participate in “Noon Hoops” with other coaches. Any video evidence of these sessions would be greatly appreciated. Coach Roberson enjoys racquetball while Coach Johnson likes to relax on the links. Jason Andrews wishes he had more opportunities to play beach volleyball in Jonesboro. Don’t talk too much trash to Coach Tucker and Coach Bell, who happen to both be huge MMA fans.

There you have it. We’re all sports fans and the Red Wolves’ coaches are no different. They have favorite players and teams because outside of their jobs they’re fans like you and me. Who a person cheers for and follows can tell you a lot about their personality too. So I have to admit, I’m curious about Coach Paschall and Coach Bell’s fascination with Big Ern McCracken.

We’ve looked at the coaches’ takes on the world of entertainment. We were able to get a glimpse into who they are outside of football. Now we know how sports have influenced their lives and careers. In the final part of our “The Man Behind the Whistle” series, it’s time to hand out some hardware. ESPN may have the Espy’s, but we’re going to hand out the “Howly’s,” recognizing certain talents amongst the coaching staff, voted on by the coaching staff. Surely nobody voted for themselves in this group. Of course not.