In 1927, when William B. MacDonald Jr.—the promoter of the forthcoming Liston-Clay fight—was 18, he was happy being a bus conductor for the Chicago Motor Coach Company, but the superintendent of the South Side garage, a man named Paddy Leyden, insisted he become a driver. "Me bucko," said Paddy, "a driver you are and a driver you'll be. You'll not be a conductor." So MacDonald was a driver. "It was the Fourth of July," he recalls. "A jillion people got on and got off. It was ding, stop, and dong, go. I never got out of second gear. I must have lost five pounds. When I got back I told Paddy he could keep his glamorous driver's boots and fancy uniform. I wanted to be a conductor and stand in the back and ring the bell and holler, 'low bridge!' and meet the people. 'Me bucko,' said Paddy, 'a driver you are and a driver you'll be.' " So MacDonald quit. "If I hadn't been so impulsive," he says, "today I'd have 36 years' seniority and the choice of routes, a Polish wife, two kids and only a couple more payments on a refrigerator."
Today William B. MacDonald Jr. of Bal Harbour, Fla. is president and director and, together with his Polish wife Victoria, owns all the stock of the William B. MacDonald, Jr. Corporation, gross assets $52 million. Among its wholly owned subsidiaries are: Housing Investment Corporation of San Juan, P.R., the island's largest mortgage company; Silmac Corporation, which holds 45% of the outstanding stock in Tropical Park racetrack; and MacDonald Farms, a stud farm near Del-ray Beach, Fla. MacDonald also owns the Tampa Tarpons of the Class D Florida State League.
MacDonald, a practicing extrovert who calls almost everyone "coach" and hands out gold-filled cuff links graven in his own image, lives in a $250,000 house with lime-green trim that is decorated with $3,200 worth of mechanical displays at Christmastime. Adjoining the house on a $50,000 two-lot plot is a two-hole pitch-and-putt course designed by Robert Trent Jones. MacDonald's 50-foot cruiser, Snoozie (Edward Elrod, captain), is tied up a couple of Rolls-Royce lengths from his front door. MacDonald has a Rolls convertible, and his "assistant," Sugar Vallone, a burly ex-bartender who wears one of the boss's cuff links as a combination tie pin and napkin holder, is due to go to England to pick up a $32,000 seven-passenger Rolls limousine equipped with TV and telephones. It has been written that MacDonald was the first to have TV in his car (he wasn't) when he had a set with a 12½-inch screen installed in a Cadillac in 1951. There are two TV sets on the Snoozie, which is named after MacDonald's wife. "I used to call her Snoozie, the Boozie, the Buttsie," he explains. "She's cut back on the smoking and the drinking, but she's still harder to wake up than a bear. When you approach her in the morning you better tread softly and take the turns kind of wide."
The MacDonalds have two adopted children—Vickie, 15, and Billy, 13. Vickie won the 1963 Sunshine Circuit juvenile three-gaited championship with her horse, Witch Doctor. MacDonald owns four show horses and, at his daughter's behest, he became chairman of this year's Miami horse show. For Vickie's eighth birthday, MacDonald installed a jukebox in her tree house, an arboreal bungalow decorated with carpeting and draperies identical with those in the main house and equipped with a paid-up refrigerator and stove. Billy owns a 16-foot runabout. For his sixth birthday, MacDonald gave his son the Billy Buster Bal Harbour Railroad, an outsize toy train that transported Billy and his friends over 800 feet of track on the MacDonald property. "I guess I spoil my kids," says Bill MacDonald.
MacDonald works mornings in an office that fronts on his pool and adjoins his bar. In the afternoons he plays golf (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday), goes to the track (Wednesday and Saturday) and fishes or steams about on the Snoozie (Sunday). The walls of his 10-stool alfresco bar are hung with fish he has caught, ducks he has shot, awards he has won, letters of heartfelt thanks and photographs of MacDonald beaming upon the great and the near great. The personalities, as he calls them, range from President Kennedy, to whom MacDonald is pictured presenting a check, to Jayne Mansfield, whom he is shown checking out. Between these two extremes are 8-by-10 glossies of MacDonald and picture people, MacDonald and politicians and, mostly, MacDonald and athletes.
Over the past decade or two Bill MacDonald, leading with his smile and his checkbook, has engaged in more deficit spending in more sports than any other millionaire of his weight and age. MacDonald accepts his weight, by the way, though he mourns the fact that he is not as photogenic as he used to be. "These days they tell me they got to use a wide-angle lens," he says. Indeed, one of the beguiling things about this man is that he does not take himself too seriously. Although one sportswriter, coining a euphemism, referred to MacDonald as being "chubby-set," MacDonald calls himself "the little fat man" or "fat Willie." But, despite all his jollity, his relentless goodwill and lavish good works, MacDonald seems to be possessed of a restless discontent and an overwhelming need to be renowned and loved—which, after all, is not an uncommon condition.
Boxing is the least of MacDonald's sporting investments; the Liston-Clay fight is only his second fling in the game. "Someone once approached me to manage Liston," he says. "He was looking for a front man, but it's an ugly business to begin with and I make too much money other ways to be bothered wet-nursing those kids." But in 1960 MacDonald blithely guaranteed Feature Sports, the promoters of the third Patterson-Johansson fight, $400,000 to bring the match to Miami Beach. MacDonald had nothing to lose but his money and nothing to gain but seeing his name in the papers. Fortunately, the fight grossed $500,000, so, in a way, it was a better deal than being the only Catholic founder-member of Mount Sinai Hospital of Greater Miami. "That cost you $50,000," says MacDonald proudly. On the Liston-Clay fight he stands to make a buck, however. Acting on a suggestion by Boxing Promoter Chris Dundee, who is associated with him in the fight, MacDonald bought the live promotion—not the lucrative theater-TV—from Intercontinental Promotions, Inc. (Sonny Liston, 47.5% stockholder) for $625,000. "I gave my maximum offer the first time up," says MacDonald. "I figure if this man Jack Nilon [Liston's manager] don't take it he can't count. And him being in the concession business, coming up from a bag of peanuts and a hot dog, he ought to know how to count." The site of the fight, the Miami Beach Convention Hall, is scaled for $1.2 million with a $250 top (SI, Jan. 27), and MacDonald figures he has to gross $800,000 to break even. He is alternatively sanguine and gloomy about making this nut. "Chris said we could make a million like breaking sticks," MacDonald says one day. "It may be more like breaking bones. It's pretty farfetched, $800,000 indoors. Those other guys didn't make $300,000 worth of mistakes. I don't care about making money. I just want the fight to be here so it can help the area. The best I can make on it is $100,000." Another day he will say: "If we can't put this fight across we ought to turn in our suits. I want them sleeping in the streets!" And at times, "Why am I in it? For kicks. I'm in it for kicks. Why do I do any of the sports things? Because I like to be in motion. Inertia is the worst thing. A great philosopher, Will Durant, said if you got nothing else to do you can always get into trouble. He's right. Go up and hit a policeman. He'll hit you back. You hit him again. He puts you in the paddy wagon, but you're in motion!
"We're not having any trouble selling the two-fifties," MacDonald says. "Certain people wouldn't be caught dead in the tourist section of an airplane because to get there they have to walk through the first-class compartment and they might see someone they know and lose face. The two-fifties are for these status people. A guy calls me, for instance, wants to buy a $100 seat for Andy Williams. I tell him Andy Williams got to be up there with the big kids. I can't imagine him sitting back there with the little kids. He got to be in there with the wheels, not the hubcaps.
"This promotion is going to be as clean as possible. It's going to be a breath of fresh air. I borrow 40 million a year from three big banks. I've got to think of my credit. The FCC examiner has recommended that my application to buy Channel 10 [the once scandal-beset ABC affiliate in Miami] be approved. I've spent $165,000 in legal fees, but if I get it, it's bingo—seven or eight million right away.
"I figure Clay win it," MacDonald says, with dubiety. "He'll take the title if he stays away, jabs and runs, but the little jerk is so egotistical—he's getting hysterical—he thinks he can punch Liston's nose sideways. It's liable to be a stinky fight to watch, but if Clay gets by seven or eight he's liable to win it."
Another way Bill MacDonald has found to lose his money is baseball. He has had three minor league franchises at one time or another, and only one, the Tampa Tarpons, which he has owned for eight years, has done so much as break even for him. In 1959 MacDonald bought the Miami Marlins of the International League, which, on a doomed treasure hunt, subsequently became the San Juan Marlins, the Charleston (W. Va.) Marlins and the Atlanta Crackers before MacDonald sold out. "There's no future in the minor leagues," MacDonald says without rancor. "I don't see how you can make money in Triple-A ball. I sold the Crackers, and they had won a Little World Series for me, because if you lose over $50,000 a year for five years Uncle says you've got a hobby, and losses on a hobby aren't deductible. I lost $475,000, but it was something to do in the summertime with the kids. From a business standpoint it was a fun thing, and I made a lot of contacts. If you got enough money and can afford baseball, O.K. If not, you better back off."
MacDonald's other ball club was the Portsmouth Tides of the Class A South Atlantic League. He liquidated it. When the Dodgers left Brooklyn, MacDonald sought to get an International League franchise there. "We'd have drawn 500,000," he says airily, "but Ford Frick turned us down." Another one of his schemes was to set up a winter baseball league in Florida similar to the one now operating in Puerto Rico. That never got off the ground either. MacDonald once looked into purchasing the Athletics and the White Sox but, as he says, "I'm 55 now. I don't like to go north of Gulfstream, west of Hialeah or south of Tropical. The other way is east—you got to go fishing. Someone called me up the other day and said, 'Why not bid on the A's?' I don't want to go inland. Last summer I chartered this 80-footer from William L. McKnight, the Scotch Tape man, and cruised from Washington to Martha's Vineyard. Now, how the hell do you get to K.C. by boat?"
MacDonald has dropped about $200,000 promoting golf tournaments over the years in what he calls "my romance with the PGA" without being visibly depressed. "I made a million friends," he says. "I got to know a lot of picture people and bankers." MacDonald sponsored three Los Angeles Opens (1955-57), two international four-ball tournaments in Miami, an LPGA tournament in Battle Creek, Mich., bankrolled Dick Mayer when he won the U.S. Open in 1957, accompanied two Ryder Cup teams abroad and is at present chairman of the PGA Advisory Committee.
Golf is MacDonald's game. He belongs to LaGorce in Miami Beach, Burning Tree in Bethesda, Md., Bel-Air in Los Angeles, Dorado Beach in San Juan, Olympia Fields in Chicago and Deepdale in Great Neck, N.Y. His handicap is 9 ("no, make it 10; I need the help"). "Anyone who works for Mr. Mac," says MacDonald's secretary, Helen Gustison, "knows you couldn't reach him between the first and 9th holes if his racetrack burned down. At the 9th hole he takes a little break. When Mr. Mac bought Royal Native for $252,500 [an unheard-of price for a broodmare prospect] we sent the check out to the 9th hole for him to sign." The other day a man approached MacDonald about joining the board of directors of a bank. "I hate to go to board meetings, coach," MacDonald told him. "You get $50, Uncle puts his hand in the tambourine for $40, and it's just the day you would have had a good golf game and won a couple hundred."
MacDonald is a formidable figure as he rolls o'er the fairways in his golf cart, nipping "suntan lotion" out of a Coke bottle with .his right hand, root beer out of a root beer bottle with his left hand, and steering with his forearms. "I had a bad night," he will say. "I can't go around alone today, so I brought a couple of friends—Haig & Haig." When he hits a good shot he may cry: "How do you like that one, sports fans?" When he hits a bad shot he may moan: "I can't get around this fat belly of mine," or "Where did it go? Come back! All is forgiven." After he has sunk a long putt he will climb into his cart and say, "I'm a little too sexy for TV, don't you think? Maybe I can make it in the movies," or offer to give his imitation of an elephant or tell about the time he tried to get a horse through the revolving door at Reuben's.
"Racing," says MacDonald, "now that's profitable." MacDonald bought his first horse in 1951 and his best horse in 1960, Royal Native, the champion 3-year-old filly of 1959. She won $261,226 for him as a 4-year-old and was selected the best older filly of the year. The most notable of MacDonald's other thoroughbreds is Kathy Too, a filly he bought for $90,000. "She was the fastest thing ever to come out of Ireland," he says. "She win a race, then she bowed a tendon. She's bred." His 160-acre breeding farm ("I've been offered $2,500 an acre"), inevitably referred to Old MacDonald's Farm, has a 5/8-mile training track, 35 horses—mostly broodmares, yearlings, weanlings and sore horses—and some 60 head of cattle. MacDonald presently has five unraced 2-year-olds. His new trainer, Nick J. Moran, considers three of them good prospects, particularly fancying a Hill Gail colt named Hill Charger.
Besides owning 45% of Tropical Park, MacDonald is its treasurer and a director. The 55% of the stock that he doesn't own belongs to the track's controversial president and finest customer, Saul Silberman. "Silberman and I haven't had a cross word in four years," MacDonald says. "Since I been there his image has improved.
"The things that make me money I don't do," MacDonald says. "I don't know anything about the mortgage business. I don't know what one looks like. The racetrack, my partner does that. 'For $800 a day,' he complains to me, 'you don't show up very often.'
"Tropical Park is known as The Friendly Track. Half the people know the other half. A lot of people tell you they'd like to race there all year round. Of course people tell you things you want to hear.
"We're trying constantly to protect our people," MacDonald says, "to warrant their patronage. We're very careful we got plenty of toilet paper in the rest rooms, for instance. We're the first track in Florida to integrate, and when I ran the Crackers we were the first team in Georgia to integrate our stands. We integrated Tropical three years ago. There was no comment about it except one guy who sees this colored guy on a line at a $10 window and asks me, 'Who's that?' I say, 'Coach, that's Saul Silberman's chauffeur.' This guy looks around some and then he says to me, 'How many chauffeurs he got?' "
MacDonald believes racing can be improved. "You never stand still," he is fond of saying. "If you don't go forward, you're going backward. There is no doubt that the pendulum has swung too far into commercialism, however. The ugly part is that the people controlling the sport are not race people. Generally speaking, the commissioners are not knowledgeable. They are political appointees squeezing the revenue out of the sport. The people who actually love racing are those that own horses, and very few of them break even. The thing that's happening and that real race people, like Captain Harry Guggenheim, abhor, is people saying, 'The 2 horse win it,' or, 'The 8 horse win it.'
"It doesn't make any sense making New York run nine days more, like they're doing this year. That's a gross case of commercialism. It's obvious that they're going to race all year round in New York one of these days. As far as the state's concerned, put elephants in there if you got a mutuel. Bowie's ridiculous. Racing in January! It's not for nice, hot-blooded animals! They're not supposed to be out there this time of year! As Joe E. Lewis said, 'I got a polar bear that can scoot.' "
MacDonald has some notions about what is wrong with baseball, too. "They should trade more to balance the teams," he says. "The guys in the American League are reluctant to help one another. They're too staid, too reluctant to change. And it doesn't make sense they don't have inter-league games. Pittsburgh, for instance, never sees Mantle. It's not fair to the fans. But the only people that think baseball games are too long are the writers. The writers are a detriment to baseball. The fans don't complain the games are too long, it's this guy that's writing that's got a date—and he's changing pitchers again!"
At one time MacDonald tried to get into professional football by buying 25% of the Washington Redskins, but although there were stories in the papers hailing MacDonald as a new owner, the deal fell through at the last minute. He was also approached by Harry Wismer to bail out the New York Titans. "Everyone in New York was offered that," MacDonald says. " 'You don't need any money,' Harry says. 'All you have to do is sign a few notes.' Do you know what a co-signer is? An idiot with a pen!"
Bill MacDonald is descended from a long line of sheep thieves. When he went to St. Andrews in 1952 he eagerly looked up his ancestors. "I was looking for a couple kings," he says, "and I found sheep thieves! You see, the MacDonalds were Highlanders and the Campbells were Lowlanders [actually the Campbells might have been low Highlanders.] My forebears were hungry most of the time so they steal the Campbells' sheep. You know the song, 'The Campbells are comin', O-ho, O-ho'? That's what our guys would sing when the Campbells come looking for their sheep. We'd stand back of rocks and ambush them with bows and arrows."
MacDonald, whose ancestors came over to Prince Edward Island in the 1780s, was born in Butte, Mont. in 1908 and moved to Sumatra, Mont. in 1913. His father was the state representative from Rosebud County, a deputy sheriff and a deputy land commissioner. MacDonald's mother was killed in an accident in the family's 1916 Overland when he was 9, and the MacDonalds moved to Boston, where the father became a branch manager for Fox Film. MacDonald played a little hockey and baseball and at 14 was managing the Lafayette AC, a sandlot team that performed on Boston Common for $5 to $8 a man; MacDonald decided who got how much. When he was 17, MacDonald went to Chicago to work for Tom Hogan, a vice-president of the Yellow Cab Company; there he also attended law school at night. "When an alderman come to town Tom would take him out," MacDonald explains. "I got the bailiff. I'd take him to the stockyards and to the Field Museum until he'd tell me, 'Let's say to hell with this, son. Where can I get a beer? Bring on the broadies!' I got $35 a week. I was doing pretty good."
After MacDonald left the Chicago Motor Coach Company, his next job, he opened a ticket agency at 12th and Wabash for wildcat cars—Lincoln sedans that he ran to the Hotel Claridge in New York at $15 a head. He parlayed the cars into buses during Chicago's Century of Progress Exposition; his motto was "Times Square to the World's Fair in 28 Hours." If the buses ran late, he offered pro rata refunds like The Twentieth Century. When the railroads lowered their fares, MacDonald sold out to the Santa Fe. "I wound up with $250,000," he says, "the most money I ever had. Two years later I was flat, stony broke. All I had was a Buick coupé and a nice wardrobe, so my friend Tony Ryan, who's now the biggest Oldsmobile dealer in Milwaukee, and I drove to Miami. If we're going to starve, at least we'd be starving where it was warm. We hocked our cars and, for $750, bought the door and parking concession to the Dempsey-Vanderbilt Hotel at 21st and Collins, the live spot on the Beach. We had gotten in out of the rain. I worked the days and Tommy the nights, because I was still going to law school. At the end of the year we had made $4,400 apiece. Then I went into dry cleaning and laundry, tried to get people to put their money into a federal savings and loan association I represented, and managed the Sunny Isles Restaurant. I knew all the taxi people from being a doorman, and they got people to come up and give me a play. I made $10,000 that winter."
In 1940 MacDonald, now back in Chicago, became one of four truckers the government certified to haul trailers to house families working on federal projects. At the peak of this operation, MacDonald had 116 trucks under lease. He then began buying and selling trailers. From that he went into manufacturing trailers; he bought his first factory on Nov. 1, 1944. It burned down Christmas Eve, so MacDonald bought another one. "Mobile homes were little bitty coaches then," MacDonald says. "I got laws passed to allow them up to 10 feet wide on the highways, and we were the first to corrugate the metal, have picture windows, island beds and under-the-floor heating." MacDonald's Mid-States Corp. eventually owned 10 subsidiaries: Regal Mobile Homes, Pinconning, Mich.; Canadian Star, Ingersoll, Ont.; Universal and Terra-Cruiser, Downey, Calif.; Rex, McMinnville, Ore.; Kozy and National, Kalamazoo, Mich.; Duo, Union City, Mich.; Elcar, Bourbon, Ind.; M System, Texan and Ranchero, Texarkana, Texas; Star, Union City, Mich.; and Pan American and Paramount, Monrovia, Calif. MacDonald became the world's leading manufacturer of mobile homes, with more than 15% of the market, and served a term as president of the Trailer Coach Manufacturers Association. His trademark at the L.A. Open was the largest trailer of its era, a 65-foot Executive Cruiser that slept 12 and had a combination sun deck and heliport and a swimming pool.
"I never was a production man," Bill MacDonald says, "and I sold only one trailer in my whole life, by accident, and I messed up on the color. I've been lucky in getting good people around me. It's your people that make you, and we believed in bringing up our own pups. I shared the profits with the branch vice-presidents. I gave them a new Cadillac every year for status. I told my salesmen I wanted them to wear a clean shirt every day, not every two days, and we'd pay the laundry bills. I wanted their cars washed every night, and we'd pay for it. I wanted them to have their suits pressed and to eat in good restaurants. We were the first to use long distance. Pick up the phone, man, I told them, don't goose around. I never believed in yes-men or formality. I'd buy my people lunch. We'd talk some baseball, talk a little football, switch around to business. The lunch would run me $25, but I might get a $200,000 idea out of it.
"What I am is a promotion man," MacDonald says. "In promotion, like anything else, you got to approach the ball with confidence. That's the first thing you learn in golf. I put on this sales thing: $150,000 in one pitch. I took over three hotels on the Beach for it. People say to me, how can you spend $150,000 on a sales convention, how can you spend $9,000 to get a Bob Hope? I say look at the sales record. Look at the volume!"
MacDonald was particularly successful at stealing a march at trade shows. "If a group keeps looking at something long enough it attracts a crowd," he says. "I once got 35 models and some flashbulb photographers to keep taking pictures of them around our trailers. There was no film in the cameras, but we attracted the crowd." Another time MacDonald put a sign on a trailer he had built for the King of Transjordan: "...custom requires that shoes be removed before entering a house of worship or royal residence." Forty thousand visitors obediently took off their shoes to walk through the trailer.
In 1960 MacDonald sold out. On a shelf in his office—between a baseball signed by his Charleston team and a baseball signed by his Tampa team—is a cheap ballpoint pen enshrined in clear plastic. The plaque on the base reads, "With this pen, Wm. B. MacDonald, Jr. signed agreement selling Mid-States Corp., Battle Creek, Mich. for $6,785,000 to Chance Vought Aircraft, Inc., Dallas, Texas, Jan. 4, 1960. Happy Day."
"Why did I sell out?" MacDonald says. "For the lump. Man gave me $6,785,000, that's why."
We have a saying at the house," says Secretary Helen Gustison: " 'If Mr. Mac died today he's lived a full life.' Mr. Mac's a powerhouse with different faces. There is no limit where he could have gone if he had set out. Senator Scott Lucas looks up to and admires the many faces of Mr. Mac. He has great concentration. If you're talking mortgages to him you can't reach him about horses, and vice versa. He gives each thing his great and undivided attention. He reminds me of someone who has created his own life. If Mr. Mac stays home with the virus, the maid brings him good soups, and he's lying horizontal, soaking up energy to get going full speed ahead again. Mr. Mac knows how to lie in bed. He's got five big scrapbooks on his career but it's not just for ego; the Internal Revenue men look at them."
Besides pages of clippings, MacDonald's scrapbooks contain letters from generals and Congressmen thanking him for the boat ride on the Snoozie, letters from directors of athletics thanking him for the use of his San Juan apartment and letters from bishops and opera guilds thanking him for his magnanimous donations.
"Do you know why I was awarded Channel 10?" MacDonald said in his box at the races the other day. "Because they like me. They say Bill is a nice guy. The civic and the charitable is why they awarded me Channel 10.1 must have walked 400 miles today shaking hands. I'm more of a handshaker than the boss [Silberman] is. I'm tired, but those are good contacts. If I hadn't done what I've been doing all my life I wouldn't be me. Take the overall image you create. See what it adds up to. I've never bought a man a drink to get a mortgage or to sell a trailer. If you're a good guy and keep grinding, people will find out for themselves. I never asked for a plug. I never had to—"
They were off—most of them—and MacDonald picked up his binoculars. The horse he had backed came down the homestretch with a big lead. "I'll take it over from here!" MacDonald yelled, banging the glasses on the counter in front of him. "It ain't how much you win but how much you don't lose. Four bandages, 7 to 5, I don't care. It's sweet, isn't it?
"When I was a kid of 16 I went to work for the Hartford Courant selling subscriptions," he said. "I'd knock on the door and say, 'Did you get your vacuum bottle absolutely free?' A vacuum bottle was what they called a thermos in those days. We gave one to a customer when he took the Courant. I worked for a man named John J. Murphy. John J. Murphy told me to give the customers a real smile when I'd say, 'Did you get your vacuum bottle absolutely free?' It's hard for a person to refuse you when you smile. How do you get mad at a guy if he's smiling? I used to practice smiling in front of a mirror. I did pretty good at that job, got $25 a week. That's not bad for those days. You got to figure out what makes people happy. You can't sell to everybody, but you can be everybody's friend.
"My success has had a lot to do with my sports activities. They put me in the public eye a little bit. I guess my goal is to leave a mark, to make my children proud of me. Everyone wants to leave a mark. You know, there was this slave in ancient Greece who set fire to a temple so that his name would go down in history. They punished him by banning his name.
"Hey, Cheesecake Ike says he must be doing pretty good. He come to the races in a $7,500 car, and he's going home in a $65,000 bus. You see, I got to talk to Cheesecake and The Genius. People look for me. I'm a live wire. I like to move. I'm outgoing. I'm naturally gregarious. I like people. It's my nature. I'm a big kid. People want to be with the big kids. It's sweet, isn't it, coach?"