Vikings make a splash
Colorful Jerry Glanville intends to invigorate PSU
Eccentric. Brilliant. Colorful. Demanding. The ultimate character.
All are apt adjectives to describe Jerry Glanville, Portland State's new football coach.
Boring, the man is not.
Ornery, he can be.
Ask June Jones, his boss the last two years at the University of Hawaii, where Jones is the well-respected head coach and Glanville, 65, served as defensive coordinator.
The two go back three decades to their days in Atlanta, when Jones was a rookie quarterback out of Portland State and Glanville was in his first year as the Falcons' secondary coach.
Mouse Davis, another larger-than-life personality who popularized the run-and-shoot offense that Jones has used so effectively at Hawaii, had been Jones' coach at Portland State.
'The first time I watched Jerry coach, it was like he was a duplicate of Mouse, only a defensive coach,' Jones says. 'From that day forward, we connected. We became the best of friends.'
Jones served as assistant head coach under Glanville in Atlanta from 1991-93. When Glanville was fired after a 6-10 season, owner Taylor Smith asked Jones to succeed him.
'I turned the job down three or four times,' Jones says. 'I felt Jerry had been wronged. Here's a guy who had given me my start in the NFL as a coach, and to be honest, had been one of the guys who stood on a table for me to be signed (as a player) out of Portland State. Because of that, I had great loyalty and feelings for him.'
Finally, Smith persuaded him to take the job.
'Jerry and I always had kind of a deal - you either were one of us or one of them,' Jones says. 'Anybody who left that group, we would send him a black rose. The night I took the (Falcons') job, I called Jerry. He didn't answer the phone. I knew I was being black-rosed.'
The two didn't talk for 12 years.
'Jerry thought June had backstabbed him, which wasn't true - June's about as much a class act as you can get,' says John McClain, a longtime NFL reporter for the Houston Chronicle.
Glanville spent most of that time as an NFL broadcaster. Jones wound up at Hawaii after his stints as an NFL head coach with Atlanta and San Diego.
One day in 2005, Jones spotted an item on the Internet. Bored with TV, Glanville was preparing to accept a job as head coach at Division II Northern State in Aberdeen, S.D.
'I called Jerry that night,' Jones says. 'He picked up the phone. We talked for an hour, and it was like we hadn't missed a conversation in 12 years. I told him if he wanted to get back into it, I could find a spot for him on my staff.
'We've had more fun in the last two years than I've ever had in coaching. Jerry is a straightforward, noncompromising guy. He demands some specific things from his players. I've never seen teams play as hard as his. That's because of his personality and what he demands.'
Made his name in Houston
After two seasons as defensive coordinator in Houston, Glanville took over in 1985 as coach of the Oilers. During that time, he made a lasting impression on those who wound up in his path.
'I tell you right now, Jerry hates me,' says McClain, who was the Oilers' beat writer at the time. 'I'll tell you some great stuff about him - some of it you can actually write.'
It has been nearly two decades since they lived in the same town, and McClain says he hasn't spoken with Glanville in 15 years. But memories of the man who turned the Astrodome into the 'House of Pain' haven't faded.
'I was talking to Warren Moon (Glanville's quarterback in Houston) about Jerry just last week,' McClain says. 'He was always a great coach, and he had excellent coaching staffs. He gave Nick Saban his first NFL job. Ray Sherman, Floyd Reese - almost all of his assistants are still in the league.
'There can't ever have been a more colorful character who was also a good coach. He's one of the funniest people I've ever been around. The knock on Jerry was, it was his way or the highway. If you wrote or said something like he didn't know football, Jerry had a fit.'
After a 5-11 record his first year as Houston's head coach, the Oilers - who had experienced six straight losing campaigns - had winning records and made the playoffs the next three seasons.
'Jerry turned the team around,' McClain says. 'He had an identity, and that was toughness. He was all about attitude and hustle. He wanted guys who were going to run through walls. The hallmark of his teams, especially on defense, was they were going to hit you. Some of the players loved him. Usually it was the defensive players. The offensive players tolerated him, kind of rolled their eyes. But they all said he could coach.
'Jerry was great doing charity work, at getting players and coaches to do a lot of stuff in the community. There is a special burn unit for children in the Houston area. He'd take players and coaches. Most of them couldn't go back when they saw the kids. Jerry always went back.
'But his last three years (with the Oilers), his ego got out of control. You were either with or against him. He eventually wore out his welcome, because he wore on you. Jerry and I had our falling outs, but I always liked covering him. You never knew from one day or the next what he'd say or do.'
Glanville has always had his detractors. Harvey Salem, an offensive tackle who played for Glanville in Houston, once called his coach 'an evil little toad.' Former Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche, who once had his team kick a field goal at the end of a 61-7 win over the Oilers, called him a 'phony' and a 'liar.'
'Jerry infuriated other coaches,' McClain says. 'I was on the field at the end of the 61-7 game, as Wyche was screaming at some Oiler players, 'How can you play for that phony SOB?' '
Reputation not spotless
In 1989, the Oilers took Pittsburgh into overtime in an AFC wild-card playoff game. Houston's Lorenzo White fumbled in the extra session, and Gary Anderson wound up kicking a 50-yard field goal to lift the Steelers to a 26-23 win.
'Had Lorenzo not fumbled, Jerry would have been coach of the year,' McClain says. After Glanville went to midfield for the traditional handshake, Pittsburgh coach Chuck Noll 'wouldn't let go of his hand and lectured Glanville on dirty play, Noll and other coaches thought when the Oilers got (an opposing ballcarrier) stopped, they'd hold him up, and other players would go in for the ribs and knees. Jerry always denied it.
'The Oilers couldn't get anybody to scrimmage them (in the preseason),' McClain says. 'Two years in a row, they had to fly from Texas to Seattle and back because Chuck Knox was the only NFL coach who would scrimmage the Oilers because of the way they played.'
Longtime Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Terence Moore says Glanville thrived on the 'dirty' reputation.
'I don't think it's necessarily true (that he coached dirty football), but perception is stronger than reality,' Moore says. 'He's one of these guys who didn't mind if you thought that, sort of like Al Davis. The guy wears black, for God's sake. He's like one of these intimidating, mysterious-type figures. If he knows he can get inside your head, he likes that. It actually works in his favor when people say things like that.'
Once, to poke fun at the 'Dawg Pound' section of rowdy fans in Cleveland, Glanville was photographed biting into a dog biscuit. The picture made it into the Cleveland-area newspapers.
'Jerry wound up wearing a bulletproof vest for the game and commanded a police escort to get off the field after the game,' McClain says. 'I went by his room at the hotel, and there was a policeman standing guard there, too.'
Former Oregon standout Chris Miller was Glanville's quarterback for most of his four years as head coach in Atlanta.
'Jerry was good for us initially,' says Miller, now serving as chief executive officer for the Kidsport youth organization in Eugene. 'He came in with a 'back in black' theme, had the black Harley, left tickets for Elvis. The Falcons had struggled for a long time, and he came in and turned the organization around with all his energy and hoopla. He had good football knowledge and coached a hell of a defense, too. He was a good fix-it guy for four or five years in both Houston and Atlanta.'
'He made things fun'
Glanville had presided over a highly regarded Atlanta defense called the 'Gritz Blitz' a decade earlier.
'That gave (Falcon ownership) the idea maybe he would be able to someday energize the entire franchise, which he did,' Moore says. 'The Falcons were totally in the dumps. Nobody cared about them. They were about to fall off the face of the Earth. When Jerry came along, he was able to make the Falcons relevant again.
'Jerry kind of brought the circus to town. Every Falcon game was a show. Hammer would be on the sidelines and in the locker room. Country stars like Travis Tritt and Kenny Rogers were around. Jerry was the proverbial players' coach. Guys liked playing for him. He made things fun for them.'
In 1991, Glanville's second season as head coach, the Falcons went 10-6, snapping a streak of eight straight losing seasons. They went 6-10 in each of the next two campaigns, and Glanville was history.
'The bad news with Jerry is, it eventually wears off,' Moore says. 'When it wears off, and it comes down to just playing football, then you could be in trouble. That's kind of what happened in Atlanta. To begin with, you have this big fanfare and everybody's excited. After a while it's, 'OK, let's get down and see the substance here,' and that could be lacking.'
Everyone, it seems, thinks the hiring of Glanville makes sense for Portland State.
'Jerry would be absolutely perfect for that situation,' Moore says. 'He certainly would be able to do all the things Portland State would need. If you want to look for a guy to put Portland State on the map, he's the guy to do that, to get attention for the program, to find ways to make - what's their nickname? - the Vikings relevant. He is one of those coaches who is going to bring instant energy to whatever situation he's involved in - not just the football program but the entire community.'
Coaches laud move
Oregon State coach Mike Riley first met Glanville through Hugh Campbell, whom Glanville coached for, then succeeded as head coach in Houston. Riley had been an assistant under Campbell at Whitworth.
'Jerry has been a guy who's been fun and good for our game,' Riley says. 'He's always brought a little bit extra to the table, and he's a good coach. They played really good defense in Hawaii. They did a good job keeping you off balance, had a little unique flavor to their defense with what they did.
'It's great for Portland State to get a guy like this, and if Mouse Davis is coming, too, well … Mouse is one of our great ambassadors. It'll be good for football in the state and a great kick in the pants for that program.'
McClain says he thinks the Vikings will 'play hard and steal some of the Trail Blazers' thunder. He knows how to get attention. With a smaller school, they couldn't have made a better hire.'
Jones, who starred at Grant High, says the Glanville-Davis package makes for a can't-lose proposition for the Vikings.
'Jerry and Mouse are the ones who could save Portland State football, or take it to another level,' he says. 'That's not to say maybe there's not somebody else who could do that, too. But with their personalities, their charisma and everything about them from the standpoint of media and national exposure, it puts them on a level different than anybody else could.'