Bill Walsh opens his arms to San Jose State.......

Earlier this fall, some concerned San Jose State alumni walked through Bill Walsh's door, and their visit launched a new era for the Spartans.

SAN JOSE, Calif. - (KRT) - The door to Bill Walsh's small office is open.

Many take advantage of the access: Stanford athletic director Ted Leland - who brought Walsh back to Stanford as his special assistant. Student-athletes. Coaches from all sports.

Earlier this fall, some concerned San Jose State alumni walked through his door, and their visit launched a new era for the Spartans.

Walsh's small cell phone rings constantly, with calls from NFL coaches and former players. Next month he will be honored at the NFL scouting combine for his work to promote minority coaching candidates. The man once called "the greatest resource in the history of football" is still being sought.

Except by one man. John York, who owns the team Walsh once transformed into a dynasty, never consulted with Walsh on the 49ers' recent overhaul.

"I don't have any regrets over that," Walsh said last week. "I don't feel left out. I'm no longer with the 49ers. He has a plan of his own. His own staff. His own approach."

It has been nine months since Walsh, 74, officially left the 49ers, after a second stint as the team's general manager and then as a consultant. But it has been longer since he had real influence with the team. Insiders say that although York paid Walsh a retainer - and asked him to remain with the team - he rarely asked for advice.

York's confidant through the downward spiral was Terry Donahue, the man Walsh hand-picked to lead the 49ers into the future. The results were disastrous, and Donahue was fired earlier this month.

"I am disappointed in how it turned out, no question," Walsh said.

There have long been whispers that Donahue wasn't the model student and that Walsh was surprised Donahue didn't ask more questions, work harder or spend more time in Santa Clara. Donahue has been characterized as a man who wanted to run the show alone, who helped usher Walsh out the door. On that subject, Walsh picks his words carefully.

"We got along famously, but I think he wanted to have his own operation," Walsh said. "For 25 years, Terry was the head coach at UCLA. You become institutionalized at that point. There's a way you operate, and it's not going to change. So that's the way he functioned with the 49ers."

Walsh knows he casts a long shadow. He has ever since Eddie DeBartolo hired him in 1979 and gave him control of the football operations. After winning four Super Bowl titles, Walsh retired in 1989. He returned to the team 10 years later at the request of DeBartolo, who was battling to keep the 49ers, a fight he would eventually lose. Walsh stayed on under York, running the successful drafts in 1999 and 2000 and identifying Jeff Garcia as a quarterback that could help the team win.

But insiders say that men like York and Donahue - who had no NFL pedigree - were uncomfortable when Walsh spoke with the voice of authority and experience.

"One of the problems I've had with the 49ers is that people became a little uncomfortable," Walsh said. "When I'd speak, they were stuck with what I said. I have an opinion based on experience."

His opinion is still valued. Leland brought in Walsh and ended up hiring the football coach Walsh recommended, Walt Harris.

But Walsh's greatest impact may come further down the freeway, at San Jose State, his alma mater. Walsh, the only Spartan in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, had not been involved with the Spartans and was openly dismissive of former athletic director Chuck Bell.

"I just didn't have any confidence in what was going on," he said.

Last fall, a SJSU faculty member and two alumni came to Stanford to seek advice. They talked of changing things in a year.

"I said, `A year from now you won't even have a program. Who are we kidding?'" Walsh said. "If you're going to act, act now. It certainly won't get better."

That meeting was followed by a consultation with interim university president Don Kassing. After Bell and Coach Fitz Hill stepped down, Walsh was asked to head the search for an athletic director. The group quickly settled on Tom Bowen, who directed the 49ers' community outreach programs. His hiring was followed by that of experienced football coach Dick Tomey, who knew Walsh.

"I think Dick Tomey, along with Tom, can bring San Jose State back to a competitive level," Walsh said. "It's good for San Jose and good for the atmosphere on campus."

Walsh's involvement lent an aura of professionalism and optimism to the process, qualities San Jose State athletics has lacked.

Walsh's presence, in the eyes of many 49ers fans, could do the same thing for York. If for no other reason than public relations, there was an expectation that York would involve Walsh when hiring a new coach.

"He wanted to do this himself," Walsh said.

York also did not ask Walsh to attend the news conference introducing Mike Nolan.

"He didn't call me, but I wouldn't have gone," Walsh said. "I would have been a distraction. A sideshow. That wouldn't have been good for the 49ers."

In some ways, York is right. For years, the name "Bill Walsh" has been the panacea for all 49ers problems. He gets all the credit, even for things that he didn't do, such as drafting Terrell Owens. Other coaches, even successful ones such as George Seifert and Steve Mariucci, pale in comparison.

Still, York should tap into this incredible resource sitting in a small office in the Stanford athletic department.

Nolan should drive over and pick his brain. Whoever is hired to run the offense should come, as Mike Shanahan did back in 1992, and consult with the oracle of West Coast offense.

"I'm open to anything like that," Walsh said. "But those things aren't going to happen.

"They've moved on and I've moved on."

And a door has been closed.


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