A public memorial for Don James has been scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 27 at 3 p.m. at University of Washington’s Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
It’s funny when you look back on the moments that you consider to be significant in your life.
In the summer of 2000, the Mariners were playing in Safeco Field. Every night, I would drive down to the ballpark to present MLB highlights at the end of the 7th inning on the stadium big-screen. I would then immediately leave to beat the traffic.
As I was sprinting out of the stadium in the top of the 8th one night, I heard a voice yell out “Dori… hey Dori.”
I was stunned when I turned and saw The Dawgfather, one of the greatest college football coaches of all time…the great Don James.
After a handshake and a hug, he told me that he enjoyed the highlights. And that he was proud of my career.
And, as I walked out the stadium that night, I was humbled and fought back the tears. Because I couldn’t believe the great coach had remembered.
In the early 80’s, I was a 19-year-old college kid at the University of Washington pursuing my radio dreams. After a year as the color analyst on the campus radio station, KCMU (with a 10-watt signal that barely got to the campus borders), I became the Husky football play-by-play guy.
Every year, the Huskies were in a battle for the national championship. Don James was a very busy man.
There was no reason for him to be good and gracious to the podunk campus radio station – and to me. But he was.
Every Friday morning, from 11 to 11:15, he would spend 15 minutes with Bob Rondeau on KOMO. And then, from 11:15 to 11:30, he would spend 15 minutes to do a coach’s show with me. To this day, I have no idea why he gave us his time.
But I know that he made our little rinky-dink student station feel big time.
And I learned important life lessons from Coach James. I almost always went into those Friday interviews over-prepared. But one week, when I was in the middle of midterms, I hadn’t prepared at all. And Coach James could tell.
I asked a couple of weak questions. Not horrible, but weak. Coach James said to me “Son, when you come in here, I expect you to respect my time.”
He didn’t say that to be mean or condescending. He said it to make me a better professional, to be the best I could be at all times. It was the same approach he took with thousands of football players who were blessed to have played for him.
I’ve never forgotten that Friday morning with Coach James. The great coach coached me up.
Like thousands of other young people, this young man will never forget the impact he had on my life.