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Last Call
William F. Reed
December 05, 1994
With nothing left to lose, Curley Hallman went out a winner as LSU's coach
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December 05, 1994

Last Call

With nothing left to lose, Curley Hallman went out a winner as LSU's coach

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On a warm, breezy afternoon, Dale Brown, LSU's basketball coach since 1972, brings his staff to football practice in a show of support for Hallman. In Hallman's first year in Baton Rouge, when a fight broke out in a dorm between basketball and football players, Brown got in Hallman's face and said, "Listen, rookie...." Before Brown could get much further, Hallman stopped him and said, "I may be new here, but I'm not any rookie. I've paid my dues." The next day Shaquille O'Neal complimented Hallman on how he had handled the situation.

At a few ticks past 7 p.m., Hallman shows up late for his final radio show, which is broadcast from a studio in the athletics office building. He apologizes to the host, saying he dozed off in his office while watching videotape of Arkansas. In the next hour he takes notes as he fields calls from more than 20 LSU fans in four states, most of whom wish him well. "I don't really know if I have any faith in the hierarchy at LSU to bring in somebody better than you," says a caller named Donald.

"Well," says Hallman, "things didn't work out, and maybe out there somewhere there's another opportunity that I'm supposed to be involved in."

After the show Hallman goes to dinner. He orders soup and ribs and talks about what went wrong at LSU. Several times he whips out a felt-tip pen and diagrams plays on the white paper tablecloth. He talks about how close he came to succeeding. A play here, a recruit there. He would like to have had the fifth year, but the administration said no. He puts his pen in his pocket and shrugs. "This week is harder than last week because reality is starting to set in," says Hallman. "I know I'm gone. But I've always said that if you don't get bitter, you've got a chance to get better, and that's where my life is at right now."

Wednesday

Hallman has promised his daughters, Jennifer, 18, and Jessica, 13, that they can accompany him to Little Rock for the last game. He considers calling Ford, the coach at Arkansas, or Ford's wife, Deborah, to see about getting tickets for the girls. Ford is one of his closest friends in coaching, going back to 1979-81, when Hallman was on his staff at Clemson. Last season, when two of Ford's daughters traveled to Baton Rouge for the Arkansas-LSU game and their car broke down, they stayed two days with the Hallman family.

But Hallman decides to let the girls watch the game from the sidelines, something he has never permitted. It's one thing he can scratch off his list of many things to do.

An incurable list-maker, Hallman has sat down at times during the week and made note of the people and events that have shaped his life. That list was topped by his mother, Lola, who raised eight children in Northport, Ala., without steady financial support from Curley's father, Samuel, a carpenter who had trouble finding work. Nor has Hallman forgotten his older sister, Mildred. When Curley was in his early teens, she would sit up with him and listen to LSU games on the radio. Even now Hallman gets excited when he recalls Halloween night in 1959, when Billy Cannon made his 89-yard punt return to beat Mississippi 7-3. He hopes Mildred won't be angry with LSU for firing him.

"We all knew what we were getting into when we got into this profession," Hallman says. "I hitchhiked all night to take my first coaching job, in Orange, Texas. It was a 22-hour trip, and I had maybe $3.50 in my pocket. But I've always wanted to be a coach, and I still do."

Thursday

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