Former Wolverines coach calls Paterno a 'great leader'

"What's been amazing to watch has been his ability to handle the good and the bad. I think that's the mark of a great leader." -- Lloyd Carr on Joe Paterno


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For the first time since 1995, Lloyd Carr won't be on the sideline Saturday when longtime nemesis Michigan plays Penn State.

The former Wolverines coach said he would miss chatting with his longtime friend and counterpart, Penn State's Joe Paterno, at Beaver Stadium.

One thing Paterno won't miss is going head to head against Carr, who had a remarkable 9-2 record against him. Carr captured the last nine meetings before his retirement at the end of last season.

Carr still works as an associate athletic director at Michigan, but he declined to talk about the Wolverines -- they are 2-4 under first-year coach Rich Rodriguez -- or his life away from coaching.

But he said he admired both Penn State's program and Paterno. The Nittany Lions are 7-0, ranked No. 3 in the country and are led by the winningest coach in Division I history with 379 victories.

"They are having a great year and have been a very impressive team," Carr said. "They've been outstanding on offense. Their quarterback [Daryll Clark] has really established himself at the midseason point as one of the best players in the Big Ten. I think he's been the biggest difference.

"And [tailback Evan] Royster is a guy [who's] really on the rise.

"They're a physical football team. They're big and strong, and they're going to punch you."

Carr said he loved Paterno's resiliency. The 81-year-old Hall of Fame coach has a sore right leg and hip and has been forced to spend the past two games upstairs in the coaches' booth.

He also has been walking with the aid of a cane and watching practices from a golf cart.

"You don't put yourself through that kind of pain and the agony that he's under unless you're doing something you're truly passionate about," Carr said.

Carr, 63, arrived at Michigan in 1980, hired as the defensive backs coach by the legendary Bo Schembechler. Carr spent 15 seasons as an assistant before taking over as coach in 1995.

In 13 seasons, he went 122-40, won a national championship and captured five Big Ten titles. He had an 81-23 conference record, but was 1-6 against Jim Tressel and rival Ohio State.

Despite dominating Paterno and his teams for more than a decade -- Penn State's most recent victory in the series was 12 years ago -- Carr considers Paterno one of college football's coaching giants.

"What Joe brings is a great love for the game," Carr said. "He's a remarkable guy. I think the thing that drives him is his passion for the game, his passion for Penn State. It's fun to see a guy still doing what he wants to do. It's nice to see his team having a great season.

"He's had several undefeated teams, he's won [two] national championships, yet there was a period there he had some disappointing seasons. What's been amazing to watch has been his ability to handle the good and the bad. I think that's the mark of a great leader."

Carr said it was highly unlikely that another coach would work at the same school for 43 seasons. Paterno's current contract expires at the end of the year, and his future remains uncertain, especially with his recent health issues.

"I don't think you ever say never, that it won't happen again, a guy coaching at the same place for that long. But I think we can say that the odds are greatly against it ever happening again," Carr said. "Joe's had a special career."

Carr said that although Paterno has had to adjust to changes in college football through the years, he hasn't altered his coaching style much.

"He's still a fundamentalist," Carr said. "If you look at the uniforms, if you look at him, you look at the way he runs the program, I don't think much has changed.

"He's certainly changed with the game, and he has made changes from an offensive and defensive standpoint. But I think he's remained true to a lot of the things that he's embraced down through the years."


Ron Musselman can be reached at rmusselman@post-gazette.com .


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