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Coaching In Shadows DAN DEVINE 1924-2002 A quiet winner who carved out a career by following legends

May 20, 2002
May 20, 2002

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May 20, 2002

Coaching In Shadows DAN DEVINE 1924-2002 A quiet winner who carved out a career by following legends

Numbers never tell the whole story of a coach's life. Dan
Devine, who died on May 9 at the age of 77 after struggling with
complications following heart surgery, won 172 games as a
football coach at Arizona State, Missouri and Notre Dame. During
his tumultuous four-year term with the Packers from 1971 to '74,
he led Green Bay to its only title of any kind (a divisional
championship in '72) in the long, dark period between Vince
Lombardi and Mike Holmgren. Few coaches have been more
successful. Yet Devine's legacy is forever obscured by the
shadows in which he walked.

This is an article from the May 20, 2002 issue Original Layout

In 1971, after winning 93 games in 13 seasons at Missouri, and
earning the enduring devotion of Tigers fans, Devine went to the
Packers. There he replaced Phil Bengston, who had coached the
team to three mediocre post-Lombardi years. Devine's Packers
went far in '72, but two years later, when Green Bay finished
6-8, irate fans killed Devine's dog and dumped the corpse on his
lawn.

The animosity drove Devine out of Green Bay, and in 1975 he took
over another football institution at Notre Dame. This time he
replaced Ara Parseghian, who had not only won two national
titles in 11 years but also had infused the program with the
type of dashing personality to which it had once been
accustomed. Devine did nearly as well on the field as
Parseghian, winning 76% of his games in six seasons and a
national championship with Joe Montana at quarterback in '77.
Devine even conceived one of the great motivational
masterstrokes in school history, outfitting that '77 team in
green jerseys just before kickoff against USC and creating an
emotional springboard to a 49-19 victory.

That was a rare moment of flamboyance. Devine was more commonly
a soft-spoken technician who delegated responsibility to
assistant coaches and revealed little of himself to the public.
"He was a low-key man of great dignity and talent, but he lacked
Ara's charisma, and for that reason he was never fully accepted
by the Subway Alumni," says Rev. Edmund Joyce, Executive Vice
President Emeritus at Notre Dame, the man who hired Devine.
Indeed, despite averaging nearly nine victories per season at
Notre Dame, Devine rarely comes up when the Irish faithful
discuss their most revered coaches. "You would have to put
Rockne first," says Joyce. "Then of course Frank Leahy second.
Ara, with his personality, would be third, and probably Lou
Holtz, with all his flamboyance, fourth. Dan would be an easy
fifth."

Devine never coached again after resigning from Notre Dame for
personal reasons. (His wife, Joanne, had multiple sclerosis.) He
spent 11 years at Arizona State, raising funds and directing a
program to fight substance abuse. In 1992 he returned to
Missouri as athletic director and helped restore faith in the
school's struggling sports programs. "He was private and
introverted, and maybe that hurt him," says former NFL safety
Dave Duerson, who played for Devine at Notre Dame. "But you have
to know that Coach was a man who touched many lives. He always
said, 'Be a better player every day when you leave the field
than when you stepped onto it.' I still live my life by those
words." --Tim Layden

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO(DEVINE) SIMPLY DEVINE He and Montana led the Irish to a national championship.