Former Miami coach Coker eager for next coaching opportunity
CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Larry Coker looked up from his lunch and posed a hypothetical question.
Suppose an athletic director was told he could have a football coach who would win a national championship, average 10 victories over six seasons, send a few dozen players to the NFL and improve the program's graduation rate.
"Somebody would pay a lot of money for that coach, I would think," Coker said.
It's not a made-up scenario. That's his resume. But for the first time in 37 years, Coker won't be coaching football this fall.
Five months after his final game at Miami, Coker stays busy by traveling around the country visiting relatives, vacationing in Las Vegas, watching football practice in Arkansas and speaking to fans in Alabama.
He enjoys that, but it's not enough. He wants another job, another chance to prove himself.
"There's no doubt in my mind -- I want to coach," Coker, who has shunned most requests to talk in recent months, said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press. "I'm not burned out. I'm not shot. I've got energy."
Coker is from Okemah, Okla., and played at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla. He has been a high school coach in his native state, as well as an assistant coach at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa.
He turns 59 this summer and said he's never felt better, although he still grapples with the problems experienced by Miami in 2006. The year was marred by the killing of defensive lineman Bryan Pata, the preseason shooting of another player and a bench-clearing brawl during a game with Florida International. Coker believes that fight cost him his job.
"This team, this past year, was better than a seven-win team. But as far as coaching, it couldn't have been more difficult," Coker said. "The FIU game, we win the game 35-0 and we should have been in position to win the ACC. But that game took a lot of heart out of us, out of me, out of our players."
How fast did the brawl come up in interviews with other schools after last season?
"About 30 seconds," Coker said.
As speculation grew that Coker would be fired, he insisted he would be around for several more years. In truth, he'd known for weeks he'd be ousted, even after making a personal appeal to university president Donna Shalala in mid-November asking for one more season.
For now, he's writing his autobiography. He wants to leave it for his grandchildren so they will know the story of a guy who started coaching on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma 35 years before they were getting whisked around on private planes. Several schools, including Minnesota, North Carolina State, Tulane, Rice and Tulsa expressed some level of interest in him after last season.
"It's probably best that I took a step back and decided what I really want to do and how I really want to do it," he said.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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