|Parents taught new Ole Miss coach Nutt lessons that led to his success|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 22 December 2007 09:07|
Mississippi's new coach learned most of the principles he would use in the profession whiling away the hours of his childhood at the Arkansas School for the Deaf, where his parents taught.
He learned communication, perseverance, compassion and the value of hard work as he watched his father, Houston, and mother, Emogene, dedicate themselves to improve the lives of deaf children.
The experience ``really taught you the meaning of family,'' Nutt said. ``It really didn't matter what your skin color was as long as you could communicate, get in their world, hey, you made them feel important.
``Then on the playground at the deaf school, you could never say, 'Hey, Johnny, I'm open, throw me the ball.' You had to use your eyes and use your mind.''
The 50-year-old Nutt took over at Ole Miss last month after resigning from Arkansas, where he spent a decade as the state's favorite son before the relationship soured.
Rebels fans trying to get to know their new coach need look no further than his relationship with his parents.
Houston Nutt Sr., who died of a stroke two years ago at 74, grew up with a slight hearing impairment in a deaf household. After playing college basketball under Adolph Rupp of Kentucky and Henry Iba of Oklahoma State, he returned to Arkansas to take a job at the school for the deaf.
He was dean of students, teacher, coach, groundskeeper, athletic director and father figure to children who would leave home at the age of 4 or 5 to live at the school. Emogene Nutt said his day would start at 7 a.m. and end well after 10 p.m., but he thought of the job as ``a calling.''
``There was just always a problem,'' Emogene Nutt said. ``If you can imagine he was just like a parent because the kids at the deaf school are there without their parents.''
After going school in the Little Rock public school system, Houston Nutt and his three younger brothers - Dickey, Danny and Dennis - would descend on the deaf school.
``I was the little boy basically running around the gym, being told to get off the floor,'' Nutt said.
Not all of Houston Nutt Sr.'s time was spent on his deaf students. He worked with his sons as much as possible.
``He wasn't much into TV,'' Nutt said. ``So he wanted that ball tossed around, he wanted us outside, he wanted us around playing.''
Young Houston might shoot 500 baskets as his father looked on. He might toss a couple hundred passes out on the football field.
``The biggest thing he taught me is you've got to give great effort,'' said Nutt, who talked to his father on the phone every day of his adult life. ``He was disciplined. 'Tie your shoe,' you know the little things. 'Put your shirt tail in.'''
Nutt became a two-sport star at Little Rock's Central High School and the prize in a recruiting fight between Arkansas' Frank Broyles and Alabama's Paul ``Bear'' Bryant.
``He had a great awareness of what was going on as a 10th grader, as a sophomore when he (started) for us,'' said Bernie Cox, Nutt's coach at Central. ``It was the same way in basketball.''
Broyles won the recruiting contest for the young quarterback, starting a relationship that would last 30 years.
Broyles' last signee, Nutt showed immediate promise, starting four games as a freshman due. He also played for Eddie Sutton as the basketball team went 26-2. Pat Foster and Gene Keady were Sutton's assistants.
Those were the first of a handful of ``great, great'' coaches Nutt played for or worked with in his career. Broyles retired after Nutt's freshman year and Lou Holtz took over.
Nutt, a dropback passer, transferred to Oklahoma State after a year in Holtz's option offense. He then took a job as a graduate assistant for Jimmy Johnson, working alongside Dave Wannstedt and Pat Jones.
All these influences helped Nutt build successful teams wherever he went. His Murray State teams won 11 games and the Ohio Valley Conference championship in each of his last two seasons. Boise State was picked to finish last in the former Division I-A, but finished 5-6 in his only year in Idaho.
That showed Broyles enough and he hired Nutt to take over the Razorbacks program in 1998. The Arkansas boy returning home got off to a fast start, winning 17 games in his first two seasons, and it seemed like the perfect match.
He would lead the Razorbacks to three Southeastern Conference Western Division titles, 75 wins and second place on the school's wins and bowl appearances list behind Broyles.
Yet as he reached a decade in Fayetteville, a faction of fans turned on him. The 2006 SEC coach of the year was gone by the end of 2007, even after orchestrating a stunning 50-48 upset of No. 1 LSU in triple overtime to finish the season and earn a Cotton Bowl berth.
``If he wins they criticize his personal life,'' Cox said. ``When he lost it was his coaching wasn't any good. They were determined. They were after him.''
Even days before he resigned and left for Arkansas' SEC West rival, Nutt thought he'd spend the rest of his career as the Razorbacks' top man.
He listed the growth of the program under his leadership and noted his history with it dated to the time he was a ball boy at Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium.
``When I got there all they would ask me when I followed Danny Ford was, 'Can you just beat SMU?''' Nutt said.
``(Now) they expect us to win the SEC outright. They expect us to get to the BCS. We did so much, and so that's what hurt the most. I think time will tell, time will show the job that we've done and I'm proud of the job that we've done.''