<
>

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.