- The Washington Times - Monday, April 9, 2001

How come the winningest coach in NFL history is flitting around the country doing PR for a chain of restaurants bearing his name instead of being involved in football? Sometimes Don Shula wonders the same thing.

Shula says he has a good relationship with Miami Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt compared to the animosity between Shula and Dolphins successor Jimmy Johnson, anything would be a good relationship but …

"I'd like to help [Wannstedt] more, but I'm not actively looking [for work]," Shula said during a recent visit to promote Don Shula's Steakhouse No. 22, in downtown D.C. "Dave has done a great job, and I understand that he took the job with the promise of complete control. But there's a great reservoir of experience and knowledge there that's not being used."

Yet Shula, who is on the team's board of directors, is quick to point out that Wannstedt has not rejected him as Johnson did. "Dave has made me feel welcome and has let me speak to the team," he said. "He's embracing the history and tradition of the Dolphins Jimmy pushed it away. And my son Mike is on his staff, so I've become a fan and supporter [of the Dolphins] again."

Shula, 71, resigned as Miami coach in January 1996 after coaching the Baltimore Colts for seven years and the Dolphins for 26. He was deprived of a chance to run the expansion Cleveland Browns in his hometown several years ago when the NFL awarded the franchise to Alfred Lerner rather than the Dolan brothers, with whom Shula was allied.

"I miss coaching the big games the Monday nights, the playoffs the Super Bowls but I don't miss the day-to-day, 16-hour sessions," he said.

Shula, whose lifetime record still glitters at 347-173-4, acknowledges that football has changed substantially since his heyday because of the salary cap and free agency. And considering the money players make nowadays, it's questionable whether Ol' Jutjaw's rock-rumped approach would be successful.

"You have to coach [players] in a hurry now you don't have the luxury of taking time to get [them] ready and hope the chemistry is there," he said. "But after all, free agency is the American way. And football [with the cap and revenue sharing] is in the best shape of all the leagues."

Shula is boss in their burgeoning steakhouse business a 23rd restaurant is scheduled to open in Tysons Corner in June is son Dave, who runs the business and probably considers it a lark in the park after going 19-52 in 4 1/2 lonely seasons as coach of the traditionally underdone Cincinnati Bengals. Said Don, with a big grin: "He does all the work."

That's proper and fitting, because Don Shula should be concentrating on football beef rather than the filleted kind. Unless Wannstedt is the dumbest coach alive and he isn't why not crook a finger in his direction?

Ryan and Alzheimer's

Veteran sportscaster Tim Ryan has covered many big events during 30 years with NBC and CBS, and he must laugh to himself when athletes describe this or that combat as a matter of life and death.

Ryan has been waging his own really important struggle for 11 years since his wife, Lee, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's at the age of 50. She is in a nursing home in Boise, Idaho, now, and Ryan is doing all he can to help find a cure as co-chairman of the Alzheimer's Association Public Policy Forum. Last week he was in town to attend a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Alzheimer's and a candlelight vigil at the Lincoln Memorial.

"There are 4 million people is this country who suffer from this devastating disease," Ryan says. "That number is projected to reach 14 million as baby boomers reach the age of highest risk. We must find the answer or we will face an Alzheimer's epidemic."

Ryan rejoined NBC three years ago after 21 years with CBS and will cover the alpine skiing events during next year's Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City. But isn't it terribly difficult for him to concentrate on sports competition in view of the burden he and his four children must bear?

"Actually, my work is a great comfort," said Ryan, who always has been a consummate pro. "I'm grateful to be able to focus on an NFL game or basketball game for a little while. But in the long run, I've committed the rest of my life to the fight against Alzheimer's."

Eminently quotable

New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, on why he is uncomfortable with the amount of time the team's pastor spends with his players: "We let a preacher into our locker room [and] spend as much time as he wants with our players before games. Now, do people in offices have preachers coming into their place of business, interrupting their work? No. They have to do it before or after work. As a team, an organization, you've got to try to minimize those distractions, period." …

Leslie Barneson, faculty senate vice president at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Valley, Calif., on why she opposes her campus serving as a training site for the XFL's San Francisco Demons: "When you let them on campus, you get everything that comes with [XFL and World Wrestling Federation founder] Vince McMahon." …

New West Virginia University football coach Rich Rodriguez, on what kind of players he wants: "They might be guys you want to date your daughter, but I want guys who change their personality on the field. They can be nice when practice is over."

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