YAKIMA, Wash. -- Word of Mike Price’s retirement at UTEP did not come as a surprise, given the Miners’ recent struggles, but it did prompt some reflection on a really good guy and a historic career.
Forget for a moment Price’s missteps, highlighted by the debacle that was his brief tenure at Alabama, and remember that while at Washington State he took the Cougars to not one, but two Rose Bowls.
Many of us never thought we’d see WSU in the Grandaddy of Them All once in our lifetime, let alone twice.
It’s true that Price would occasionally do or say something that would provoke head scratching and, to some among the Cougar fraternity, hand-wringing, but that was simply Mike being Mike. And the positive in him — both as a person and coach — far outweighed the negative.
From a personal standpoint, I relished conversations with Mike because he always gave thoughtful and candid answers to my questions and frequently spiced comments with a hilarious and self-depracating sense of humor.
One year while doing a WSU preseason story during my tenure with the Bremerton Sun, Mike indulged me for a substantial period of time and was gracious enough to discuss his team position by position — on offense, defense and special teams.
It happened that his son, Aaron, was the placekicker that year, so when we got to the kicking game I said, “I understand your kicker has a lot of talent but has had to overcome a horrible home life.”
There were a few seconds of silence on the phone, and I briefly worried that I’d put my foot in my mouth.
Until Mike said, “Oh, completely. His old man’s a total horse’s ass.”
And in 2001, during a spring booster’s golf outing at Lower Valley Golf Club, Mike invited me to ride in his cart during the front nine of a scramble event. He answered every question I had in typical Mike Price fashion, including one about his tee shot on a short par four.
I’d been jotting down notes when Price’s group teed off and didn’t see his shot. When we drove up to a ball that was only a few yards short of the green on what was maybe a 265-yard par 4, I said, “Mike, is that your tee shot?”
With Price’s patented dead-pan expression, he responded, “Oh yeah, I’m a (bleeping) animal.”
So, Mike. Whatever you choose to do with your life after coaching, enjoy it. You’re richly deserving.