WINS, LOSSES, AND
by Lou Holtz
William Morrow, 318
Lou Holtz takes
special delight, as he tells his life story, in referring to all the times he
appeared on The Tonight Show--as if he still can't believe he was invited to be
a guest. The reader is drawn to conclude, after the third or fourth mention,
that the coach treasured those nationally televised moments with Johnny almost
as much as he did his bowl game appearances.
That's not a
criticism. Holtz is a born showman, which makes his autobiography an engaging
read. Even as he outworked and outschemed opponents over a 33-year college
head-coaching career--his lifetime winning percentage is .651--it was always
apparent that this slight, lisping martinet was put on earth to entertain. When
an irate Woody Hayes shouted, "Why did O.J. go 80 yards?" at the 1969
Rose Bowl, it was Holtz, Ohio State's defensive backs coach, who replied,
"Coach, that's all he needed."
Asked to comment on
the oranges flung onto the field after his 1977 Arkansas team earned a berth in
the Orange Bowl, Holtz quipped, "Thank God we didn't get invited to the
As a wispy
youngster with a speech impediment, Holtz learned how to crack a joke in order
to keep the bullies at bay. Some of the most eye-opening moments in this book
detail his early years in Follansbee, W.Va., where the Holtz family lived in a
two-room cellar. "I always knew I'd had plenty to eat," Holtz writes,
"because when I asked for more, my father would say, 'No, you've had
We learn that
Andrew Holtz served in the Pacific during World War II but never spoke of his
time in harm's way. "Service was just something Dad's generation did,"
Holtz writes. "You didn't brag about it.... You did your job, and you came
"sparked my lasting distaste for excessive celebrations and 'look at me'
exploits," Holtz writes. Here he strikes a slightly disingenuous note.
After all, what were the sideline tantrums, the in-game ass chewings dispensed
by Holtz, if not a kind of performance art that cried out, Look at me!
And that's O.K.
It's true that Holtz made his share of enemies. It's also true that he was
possibly the most charismatic coach of his generation. He made a lot of cool
friends through the years. Here is Bob Hope, getting Holtz out of a little jam
in Milwaukee in 1982. Here is the young attorney general of Arkansas, guy by
the name of Clinton, getting Holtz out of an earlier, much bigger jam in