SJSU’s Tomey makes time stand still
He always possessed the bearing of a CEO.
So it was like Donald Trump parking cars, or a general demoted to second lieutenant.
It just wasn't right, Dick Tomey in one of those NFL assistant-of-an-assistant positions.
The man himself didn't see it that way. On the San Francisco 49ers staff in 2003 he was among friends, like head coach Dennis Erickson and defensive coordinator Greg McMackin.
A lifelong college coach, Tomey enjoyed a turn at the game's highest level, and said he found it refreshing to actually coach players rather than assistants, which is a lot of what head coaches do.
But after talking with him, I still left the 49ers' locker room a bit low. He was 65 and this didn't seem like the right way for Tomey's career to wind down.
He had put together the most wins by a head coach at Hawaii and again at Arizona, then dabbled in broadcasting and unsuccessfully applied to be the UH athletic director (how might that have changed the course of history?).
I thought he'd be retired by now.
Instead, and to the benefit of college football, Tomey returned to the helm of a Division I team - now in his fourth year at San Jose State, he's 70 and going strong.
The Tomey trademarks of three decades ago remain: his voice of crisp, clear authority; his insistence on respect for the traditional standards of winning football, including a hard-hitting defense, aggressive special teams and ball-control offense.
He adjusted to the times by spreading his offense, but that doesn't mean it's gotten sloppy. San Jose State led the nation with fewest lost fumbles in 2007. But one was heart-wrenching, as it cost the Spartans a win against Hawaii.
Tomey beat UH with a talent-laden Arizona team in 1998 (opening Hawaii's 0-12 season), but is 0-3 against the Warriors with San Jose State.
He tried to tell us yesterday Saturday's will be just another game, and "lost some of its special meaning over the years."
But we know better, and so do the Warriors.
"I love Hawaii and consider it home," Tomey said.
Everyone hates to lose homecoming.
"You know he's had this date circled for a long time," said UH secondary coach Rich Miano, who played for Tomey.
The Spartans are 2-2, with tough losses at Nebraska and Stanford (another long-standing Tomey trademark, giving the big names more than they want).
Unlike Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden, no one wonders if Tomey's too old. He's still known for the muddle huddle, not muddled thinking.
If John McCain gets elected, he won't be the only septuagenarian president; next year Tomey is slated to move up from first VP of the American Football Coaches Association.
"He always had an aura, a presence. A great motivator, very inspirational," Miano said.
Even more so than 20 years ago, when he made his players tougher. Now he makes all of us younger.