McBride deserves some credit

By By Nick Pappas

By Nick Pappas

This is for Ron McBride. He’s a teddy bear, the anti-coach, the man who would sooner rub your tummy than yell obscenities and spit bile in your face.

I always pictured coach McBride wandering around with a smile on his face, looking desperately for a jar of honey to stick his head into.

I played sports my entire life. I was a high school football player, a wrestler and a part-time point guard. No matter the sport, the coach remained the same cardboard cutout. He was a man with a chip on his shoulder8212;a retired superhero with massive forearms and a protruding gut from years of dealing with it.

He yelled8212;a lot. Competition is a passionate trait, and passion seems to be linked directly to very loud noises. He also didn’t mind embarrassing kids, making them cry and then giving big hugs to the winners.

I took a basketball clinic with former Runnin’ Utes head coach Rick Majerus. Although he seems like your dear old uncle in a red sweater, his large belly was filled with obscenities. He called us names if we went too slow. He picked out players to pick on. One kid he told to do push-ups, and then sat on top of him as the rest of us laughed. These were kids merely learning how to play basketball and possibly go to college. I would hate to think about the loving care he gave to actual college athletes.

Which brings me back to Ronnie Mac. Ask anyone who has met the man, and the story will be of a grandfatherly type who was interested in the words you spoke as much as the speed of your wheels. His voice was a grumbled mix8212;sometimes hard to understand,but always with a smile on his face.

Pre-Mac, the Utes were a mess, the northern stepchildren of BYU. More than the winning seasons, the bowl appearances and the NFL players, I thank Mac for making the Holy War competitive. There are a few criteria to get into BYU, and it’s always felt like one of them is snobbery. The Cougars sat in the highest kingdom of football, and Mac helped kick them down a level. If he had never had a winning season, beating BYU would be enough to build a pedestal.

Like New York Yankee great Joe Torre, now of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Mac was criticized for not bringing his team up the next ladder rung. Like Torre, Mac’s coaching style felt like he pushed a button and let the team do what they wanted. And, like Torre, Mac was a victim of his own success.

This was an organization in shambles, and within two seasons Mac had his first winning season. Unfortunately, he only made that nine in a row. In his 13 seasons, he only had three losing seasons, which includes the first. He recruited the talent that won the BCS Bowl8212;Urban Meyer just drove the car.

The Salt Lake Tribune wrote a teaser article telling about how many of the current players on the team have never heard of Ron McBride, but he might be the reason they are here at all. The roster includes names like Nai Fotu, Kepa Gaison, Afa Garrigan and Thor Salanoa, all players who traveled through the Pacific Island pipeline Mac built.

Before the game on Saturday, there will be a fitting tribute to Ron McBride. Whether you know who he is or not, stand up and cheer for the grumbling bear. The stadium you’re sitting in and the team you’re watching wouldn’t be the same without him.

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Nick Pappas