Former Arkansas coach Joe Kines: Don't Forget Who You Are

Former Arkansas assistant and interim head coach Joe Kines had a message for the Razorbacks as they head on the road to play Tennessee: Don't forget who you are. Kines has the only Arkansas win in Knoxville, in 1992.

Joe Kines didn't back down when asked to deliver one of his passionate pre-game speeches near the end of his presentation to the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club.

When done, someone in the audience asked, "Coach, can you go with our team to Tennessee this weekend?"

Kines said the team didn't need him. At 72, Kines said he was done with anything resembling coaching. He's happy taking his grandson to school each morning as a retired defensive coordinator.

Kines is most famous to Arkansas fans for trying to explain what it was going to be like to play in the SEC as Jack Crowe's defensive coordinator in the summer of 1992. He thinks it was at the Bella Vista Razorback Club where he told a gathering of fans, "If you sit in the front row, wear a rain coat because in the SEC they slit your throat and drink your blood."

Kines was asked by reporters afterwards about the origin of that now famous quote.

"I've got no clue," he said. "I was just talking and it came out. I expressed what I was thinking.

"But every Saturday in the SEC is like that. I heard another assistant coach say it's like a train wreck for 60 minutes.

"It's a great game and why they are paying those coaches all that money."

Kines recalls the days when coaches made $20,000. He motioned to Harold Horton in the back of the room and said, "If Harold and I had coached later, I could have flown up here in my own plane."

Kines was clear about his four seasons at Arkansas, including his tenure as interim head coach when Jack Crowe was fired one game into the 1992 season.

"My wife Ruby and I loved it here," he said. "She's clear that this is the favorite place she's ever lived. I loved it, too. A lot of that has to do with the people. We both loved the people here."

It's those people that he tried to encourage on Wednesday at the TD club. He knows Arkansas is on a three-game losing streak heading to Knoxville. Of course, the only Arkansas victory at Knoxville came in 1992 when Kines was interim head coach.

"What I will tell you is the same thing I tell the players, don't forgot who you are," he said, noting Arkansas is a great place with a great tradition. "This is a great place. I do know that good things come out of bad sometimes."

Kines, who left the podium to walk deep into the crowd, said Arkansas can win at Tennessee.

"You don't have to even be the best team," he said. "You just have to be able to handle the time slot between the pre-game meal and the end of the game. The best team messes it up."

Kines said there is no secret to winning football. A lot is put on coaching, but he downplayed the Xs and Os.

"It's about players," he said. "Bet on good people in recruiting. Recruiting always fascinated me. You go in a home and if there are good people there -- the mom, dad, brothers and sisters -- bet on them. If not, be careful."

Kines was asked about the South Carolina victory in 1992, the first SEC game for the Hogs.

"The dressing room after that game was the most electric I can ever remember," he said. "I can also tell you that I can do dumb things, but I'm proud of them. On the TV show after the game filmed on the field, I said, Riley get the coffee pot ready because we are coming home."

That had to do with the janitor who always had coffee for Kines in his tiny closet of an office.

"He had no more than a place for a chair," he said. "I'm always in there at 5 a.m. and he had coffee for me. So that next morning, I think he had 18 pots of coffee for me and he was beaming.

"That game was the most pleasant for me and that was 24 years ago. But we also won at Tennessee and we were able to tie Auburn there. We beat LSU, too, and pretty soundly. We probably could have scored more on LSU, but Louis Campbell told me, 'Coach, we are going to have to play them again next year so we stopped.'

"The crazy thing is that team also lost to Citadel and Memphis. It's hard to explain that we didn't reach anything that was level."

Kines said spread football is no different than the period when wishbone offenses reigned supreme.

"There was a time when just lining up in the wishbone didn't do you much good," he said. "It was about having a great quarterback who could read it and run it. The fact that you line up in the spread is the same now. It's about the players.

"Things never change, it's about the players. Coaching is getting good players and then figuring out what they can do and getting them in that, then meshing it together."

Kines said it doesn't get old talking about the upset victory at Tennessee in 1992. Always good at gauging the team's pulse on Friday night or in the pre-game locker room, Kines said that team was going to play well against the Vols.

"I can put my hand on a player and know," he said. "You feel their heart beat. If it is beating like a snare drum, it's not there. If it's beating like a bass drum, then you have something. We had the heart beat for that game. We even did dumb things and they worked out our way. You need a bounce to go your way."

Kines said the Hogs messed up the pre-game coin toss, ultimately giving Tennessee the ball both times.

"Our captain picked the goal," he said, noting the multitude of options when you win the toss. "So that meant Tennessee got the ball and then had the option for the second half. But their returner fielded it at the 1-yard line and then stepped out of bounds.

"So it worked out great. We pinned them deep twice and got the ball at midfield after all of that. So sometimes it's just going to work out."

Kines was given a tour of campus before the event. He asked where assistant coach Barry Lunney officed. Lunney got his first start in that Tennessee game in Knoxville as a true freshman.

"Barry was a competitor," he said. "He didn't back down. When I was interim coach, I always took a walk with him the day before the game. I got to know him. I found out a lot about him. He knew a lot of football since he grew up in the home of a football coach. That is a big thing. I think Barry was a gym rat, a football guy. He's just like (Alabama defensive coordinator) Kirby Smart. They grew up in it."

When he was asked about the spread, he said it still comes down to matchups. He recalled a rally at TCU when defensive end Ray Lee Johnson couldn't handle tight end blocking.

"Ray Lee was a pass rusher," he said. "He played in the NFL, but he got blocked all the way to the safety by this tight end and we were down 21-0 at halftime. So at halftime we went to Greg Switzer. He could whip a tight end one-on-one. So Greg played the first two downs and then we put in Ray Lee on third down. We came back and won. It's about players and what they can do."

Kines said he was glad for the chance to be interim coach at Arkansas, with a chance to earn the job.

"I apologized for the next two years I was here to everyone for not doing better," he said. "But I am here to tell you, I'd like to try it again. I would. I'm so glad for the chance.

"I was so pleased when I got the phone call to come back and talk to the people of Arkansas. When the call came, I tried to act like I wasn't excited, but I was jumping at the chance to come."

Kines later had an interim title at Alabama, too. He rode out the season after Mike Shula was fired in 2006.

"I knew it wasn't going to be at Alabama," he said. "I was told that up front. So that didn't hurt like (not getting the head job at Arkansas). It didn't rip my heart out at the end like here.

"But I was so glad to sit in that chair for that part of the season here. There are thousands of coaches who never get that chance. It didn't last long for me, but I did get that chance."

When Crowe called to offer him the defensive coordinator job ahead of the 1991 season, Kines said he tried to turn it down.

"I was at Tampa Bay with the Bucs," he said. "In the next cubicle was Richard Williamson. I took the call and he heard me say, 'No, I don't want to do that.' I hung up and he asked me what that was about. I told him it was a job offer from Arkansas.

"Richard said I was a lot dumber than he thought. He said Arkansas was the best job he ever had twice. What makes it, he said, is the people. Everyone has facilities, but it's the people that make a job great. There are great people here."

Kines picked out faces in the crowd. He spoke about Jim Lindsey, noting his son, Lyndy, in the group. He also called Dean Weber the best trainer in America.

"You have people that you ask about something and they say, 'That's great,' and that's not always what you need to hear," he said. "Dean would tell you when it was a good idea, but he'd also say when it wasn't. You need those kind of people."

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