I figure that anyone who’s arrived here will already know some things about Coach Walsh, but here are some items that might be new. At one awards banquet in Rocklin, at the Rocklin Bar and Eatery, some time in the mid ’80s, Joe Montana, John Ayers and Randy Cross were eating fried chicken with cold beer when three strangers came into the bar. One of them was a biker with nightshade sunglasses and question mark sideburns. A second looked like a bearded mule skinner. The third was an old prospector with wire rims and shabby clothes. After a little bit, with the bar employees deciding who would throw them out, either Ayers, Montana, or Cross yelled: “Hey, those guys are our coaches!”
Sherm Lewis, the running backs coach, was dressed as the biker, Bobb McKittrick, the offensive line line, was dressed as the mule skinner, and Walsh was dressed as the prospector. Walsh had had a Sacramento make-up artist dress the three coaches up for the banquet. It was a reprise of his famous gag of dressing up as a bellhop to greet the 49ers players in their Detroit hotel for Super Bowl XVI against the Bengals. Walsh explained: “Humor is just another way to communicate with other human beings. I’ve never seen anything accomplished without communication. Players must work in an atmosphere where they feel free to exchange ideas with their coaches. Players have to be able to communicate what they are trying to accomplish with each other and their coaches.”
Back in the mid-’50s, when Walsh was a graduate assistant to Bob Bronzan at San Jose State, Bronzan wrote this in his placement file: “I predict Bill Walsh will become the outstanding football coach in the United States.”
He went on to coach Washington Union High School to a conference championship in 1957 with a 9-1 mark, then served as defensive coordinator to for Marv Levy at UC-Berkeley from 1960 to 1962. From there it was south to Stanford in 1963 as administrative assistant, recruiting coordinator, and defensive backfield coach. Walsh was offensive backfield coach for the Raiders in 1966, then went east to Cincinnati to be quarterbacks and receivers coach for the Bengals and Paul Brown.
Walsh spent eight years there in Cincinnati, but was homesick for California. He said, “We used to go over to a neighbor’s house that had pine trees in the front yard and smell the needles.” After being denied the Bengals coaching job when Paul Brown retired, Walsh went west again to coach Stanford, and from there on to Candlestick to coach the 49ers starting in early January of 1979. You can read much more about Walsh in one of his own books or the book about his term with the 49ers that came out this fall.