Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Baylor's Art Briles is built to last
By Mark Schlabach
WACO, Texas -- Reminders of the worst day of Baylor coach Art Briles' life come every year like clockwork. There are a few dates on the calendar -- his parents' birthdays, their wedding day, holidays and, of course, the anniversary of their tragic deaths -- that tug the painful memories from the back of his mind.
Briles, 57, has never forgotten how much his life changed on Oct. 16, 1976. Nearly four decades later, the deep emotional wounds still fester because he never allowed them to heal. How could they? Briles still shoulders much of the blame for the deaths of his parents, Dennis and Wanda, and his beloved aunt, Elsie "Tottie" Pittley, who was more like a grandmother to him.
"I think about them every day, every second," Briles said, while sitting in his dark office last month. "I can sit here right now and know that tomorrow is the anniversary of it. It never leaves you."
At nearly every stop in his coaching career, from West Texas high schools to the University of Houston to Baylor, Briles has somehow molded perennial losers into winners. His family, close friends, former players and assistant coaches say Briles has an extraordinary ability to persuade others into believing that anything is possible, even for football programs that have never won.
"I was blown away by his ability to instill confidence in his players and the people he's around," said Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, who played quarterback for the Red Raiders when Briles was an assistant there from 2000-03. "He always made you feel like you were 10 feet tall and bulletproof."