The above statement can't be argued in my eyes. I've only been around Coach Delaney for three years, but I can tell you he's someone I'll remember and be thankful for the rest of my life.
I'll go back to my first year in Missoula. I had moved from my first job out of college to be the Sports Director of the brand new station that is ABC/FOX Montana. While I loved covering high school sports, and NAIA football with Carroll going to the national title game that year, this was truly a step up. I was just 23-years-old heading into my first major football season and I was a bit terrified of all the pressure that goes along with covering a major program.
Quickly after starting in Missoula, I found out I was tasked with hosting the weekly coaches show, something entirely new for our company and the University of Montana. It was a bit of a daunting task, but I was incredibly excited for it.
Throughout my time interning/going to school/working I covered coaches in Boise/Pullman/Helena. I had dealt with all sorts of coaches, many friendly, several not exactly thrilled to deal with the media.
When I first met coach Delaney, he treated me like I was family immediately (as he does nearly everyone). When we sat down and discussed a direction for the Grizzly Sports Report, he was an open book. Told us he trusted us, and whatever would make for good television he was in favor of.
He truly meant that. When we did a feature on him last year and Mic'd him up at practice, I asked several players when they could tell if Coach Delaney was angry. Their answers, “When Coach D spits out his dentures, you know he's pretty heated.” It was a great answer from his players that all respected Coach, and liked to give him a little grief about his age. However I didn't want to run anything on the coaches show that might embarrass Mick. When I ran it past him he responded in only the way Mick Delaney can. He said, “Oh that's true. I lost any sense of shame for that sort of stuff years ago. If you think it'll make a few people laugh and make for good TV, use it.” We did, and it showed Coach's willingness to be an open book in just about any regard.
Fast forward three years, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt, I'll never cover another major college football coach like Coach Delaney. For our coaches show, he allowed us to Mic up his assistant coaches and himself. He gave us access that most sports guys dream of. While there were always certain things he preferred to not address (injury status, etc) he was usually an open book, and never afraid to answer a question after a tough loss, or take blame for a decision that didn't pan out in his favor.
He was always gracious in answering even the dumbest questions we could offer up in press conferences. He never snapped at a reporter, nor did he ever refuse to give comment. If a question was asked that coach Delaney didn't think was particularly great, he would still honor it with a well thought out answer because he knew we had a job to do, and he respected that.
After our first season, Coach D continued treating me like family, and that extended to his wife. I received phone calls from his wonderful wife Cheri, making sure she correctly recorded the Griz games on the right channel and I gave her copies of the Grizzly Sports Report, which she requested. At one point over breakfast on the road at the team hotel in North Dakota, Cheri saw that I was eating alone, so she sat with me and we talked about life. It culminated in her telling me that she was going to find me a girlfriend, because I shouldn't be single any longer. After re-telling the story to Coach D, he remarked, ‘Yeah, she's got a mind of her own. Be careful, before too long she'll start trying to set you up with our granddaughters,” with a smile and chuckle. Anytime I see Cheri she gives me a big hug and asks me how life is. The Delaney's embody everything about why I've loved my time in Montana: a sense of pride and family that can't be replicated.
Coach Delaney invested time in everyone he met. My father (a UM grad and former Track athlete) will come to a couple games a year, and likes to sit-in on the coaches shows. While I interviewed Joshua Dennard one year, my dad and coach Delaney chatted the entire time behind the cameras. The next year my dad visited, I re-introduced him to Coach D, and coach said, “Oh yeah, the track star! How are you?” He met my father once. But the fact that he remembered my dad after meeting him just once went a long way in impressing my dad, and furthered my belief that Coach D is one of the few genuinely kind and wonderful people in this world.
I've only been in this business for a short-while, and I have no idea where my career may or may not take me. But one thing I do know is Mick Delaney will be one of, if not the best coaches in how he dealt with the media.
So I hope coach Delaney enjoys retirement, becomes a better golfer, and gets to enjoy the care-free lifestyle that I like to believe will come with a football-free life. Whatever he accomplished in wins and losses pales in comparison to the impact he had on so many people's lives during his time as an assistant and head coach.
So for what it's worth, from someone who coaches normally can't stand (the media), I want to give a heart-felt Thank you to Coach Mick Delaney.It's people like you who make being in this business fun and exciting, and it's people like you that media folks will remember and cherish forever.
May retirement be the most relaxing time in your life, and be sure to enjoy as many ‘Mulligans' as you need on the golf course.You deserve every one.