Coach's Corner

Coach Lambright is doing well and should be home by the time you read this. As most of you realize, he has been deeply involved in the game of life. His battle with bladder cancer was similar to his approach to winning football games. There was never any doubt he was going to win.

Jim Lambright is one of the toughest individuals I have ever known. Yes, he is stubborn. Yes, he is intense, and yes, he is a winner.

Less than a month ago Jim immediately checked himself into the hospital when discovering blood in is urine. Doctors found a racquet ball sized tumor in his bladder and proceeded to break it up and removed it on the spot.

He has since had a complete operation to rebuild a new bladder and all indications are that not only was the surgery successful, but there is no evidence that the cancer has spread.

The word cancer alone is enough to scare most of us and certainly it caught Lambo's attention as well. However, there was never any doubt who was going to win. Lambo was determined to use his attacking defense and face the issue head on. I'm positive that the cancer when facing Lambo's stare immediately decided it had picked the wrong body to mess with.

This man is a warrior and a battler. He was going to live and the cancer was told to go. There was never a doubt in his mind that he would prevail.

After being on his staff and watching him prepare defenses for years, there was no doubt in my mind that the cancer was going to be beaten. Where there is a will, there is a way. And, you can bet that Jim Lambright has plenty of will.

Coach Jim Lambright came to Washington in the middle of the Jim Owens era and broke into the starting lineup as a 5 foot 10 inch, 185 lb. outside linebacker. No matter whose standards you use, that is not the prototype body size to be playing outside linebacker in the Pac-8. But we all know there is no measurement for the heart.

Of course, that was 40 years ago and for 35 of those years he served his school as both a player and a coach. For six of those years he served as the head coach and his record of 44-25-1 ranks high on both the school and conference lists. Many feel that the one tie, against USC, is what cost Lambo not only a Rose Bowl berth but eventually his job three seasons later.

During his term as head coach, Lambo carried the torch of winning football while at the same time being strapped with sanctions that his own administration had volunteered to give up. These are the same sanctions that had led to the resignation of legendary coach Don James.

That's a tough way to enter into a job, but Lambright is a pretty tough man. He willed the Huskies to continue to win. He personified toughness and it showed in how his teams played. The 1994 win over Miami in Orange Bowl Stadium was the greatest victory of his head coaching career and certainly ranks as one of the greatest wins in Husky football history.

I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to be a part of that. Jim's halftime speech during that game essentially demanded a victory. He left no alternatives to his team or the Hurricanes for that matter. It was a thing of beauty, and it worked.

He had taken a team on probation to it's greatest in-season victory ever. He had done it by stressing Husky "toughness". He had conditioned his team to be able to withstand the heat and humidity of September in Miami.

The "Whammy in Miami" will always be one of the greatest moments ever for all of us who were there. We won the game because when it came to conditioning in the fourth quarter, the Huskies were in better shape than the home town team. Lambo's team had paid the price to be tough. Miami was going to lose, just like cancer is going to lose it's fight with Jim Lambright.

When Lambo sets his jaw and casts his stare, there is simply no way you can doubt his resolve.

I'm obviously prejudiced, but I really believe that Lambo's firing after the 1998 season essentially replaced the tough guy image of the program with a finesse image. All the roots going all the way back to the early 60's were uprooted. The culture was going to change and it did. The next coach brought in a more liberal and progressive approach to practice and the games. Lambo had served his purpose. His teams had been eligible for a bowl game every year. His teams still led the conference in sacks and Husky Stadium still rocked with cheers for the defense.

But, despite his loyalty and total commitment to the Huskies, he was dismissed by someone who knew little or nothing about the game he coached. She knew how to allow the softball team to overrun their budget to the tune of $1million per year, sure, but Jim Lambright was expendable.

Lambright had left behind a tremendous amount of talent for his successor. The nucleus of that personnel went on to win the Rose Bowl against Purdue, but it's really been a tough road since then. Jim was gone but his players remained loyal to him. The kids he had recruited to Washington all invited him to their graduation party. It was another one of his greatest accomplishments as a head coach, graduation. Coach Lambright stressed academics and the players of his era had the highest rate of graduation in both the conference and throughout Husky history.

This was at the same time that there was a total upheaval in the student academic services. Who cares about graduation rates anyway, right?

Just weeks before his cancer was discovered, Coach Lambright and his wife, Lynne, had just moved into a beautiful home near Goldbar, Washington. Those of you who go over Stevens Pass know Goldbar is the last one of three towns you go through before you start up to the summit. It is a magnificent spot on 20 acres with a breathtaking view of the mountains to the south. He lives daily with the Lord and is still a man of incredible loyalty and perseverance.

Jim Lambright is doing well. He is recovering from a battle in which his opponent had no chance. He dealt with his fears, his future, and his family and he is resolved to continue to be rooting for Gilby and his beloved Huskies for many years to come. He is a warrior and he taught many young men how to be proud and tough yet smart and accountable. He personified toughness in his teachings and will always be one of the greatest Huskies ever.

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