New book features ‘The Thursday Speeches’ of former University of Washington Coach Don James

‘THE THURSDAY SPEECHES: Lessons in Life, Leadership, and Football from Coach Don James’

SPOKANE, Wash. (Dec. 3, 2014) – The compelling pregame speeches that Don James used to transform the University of Washington football program from mediocrity to national champion are compiled in the new book, “The Thursday Speeches: Lessons in Life, Leadership, and Football from Coach Don James.”

Written by Peter Tormey, Ph.D., a three-year UW letterman linebacker for James (1976-1979), “The Thursday Speeches” puts readers in the room with the legendary 18-year Husky coach, revealing the exact words James used to inspire the Huskies to slay the football giants of his day. Packed with inspiring stories and invaluable life lessons, the book also contains new insights into James’ leadership.

The 6-by-9-inch paperback is available now at CreateSpace for $14.99 at http://www.createspace.com/5080591 and is available on Amazon.com and Amazon Europe; the Kindle version of the book is available for $9.99 on Amazon.com.

James wrote the speeches before practice each Wednesday, by longhand, on 11-by-14-inch yellow legal pads. After making final edits on Thursday, James recited them – typically with fierce intensity – to his teams before a light practice.

James, who compiled a record of 153-57-2 at Washington, is the most successful football coach in the history of the University of Washington and the Pacific-12 Conference. As but one measure of his coaching excellence, Sports Illustrated once named the three best college football coaches in the country: No. 1, Don James; No. 2, Don James; No. 3, Don James.

The book stems from Tormey’s doctoral research in Leadership Studies (Gonzaga University). James made the speeches available to Tormey for his doctoral dissertation, and participated in several in-depth interviews with Tormey on a variety of leadership-related topics explored in this book.

James succumbed to pancreatic cancer on Oct. 20, 2013 at age 80. Tormey, who completed his doctorate in 2007, said he was inspired to finish the book after attending the UW public memorial service for James last year.

“This book is an appreciative tribute to a great man,” said Tormey, a member of James’ second UW recruiting class. “Coach James inspired so many of us with his toughness, his commitment to competitive greatness, his unmatched capacity for work, and his abiding belief in the importance of a positive attitude. I hope this book will allow many more people to benefit from his inspirational words and wisdom.”

The book is organized into four sections:

 

Part I: Getting to the Rose Bowl – chronicles, through interviews and his Thursday speeches, James’ early struggles to change attitudes. This section reveals the details behind James’ decision to move into his office in his first UW season (for the remainder of the season) after a crushing loss to Alabama. This section also describes how James’ commitment helped the Huskies come within a hairsbreadth of going to the Rose Bowl in his first season, and set the stage for their Rose Bowl championship in his third season and Washington’s eventual national championship. This section also describes how James developed his “Pyramid of Objectives” goal construct after listening to a lecturer at a University of Washington engineering conference. A graphic depicting James’ “Pyramid of Objectives” was listed in the Huskies’ playbook and is included in this book as well.

 

Part II: Themes of “The Thursday Speeches” – excerpts, listed chronologically, from James’ Thursday speeches about the subjects he addressed most frequently in these talks to his teams.

 

◦      Attitude

◦      Life Lessons

◦      Competitive Greatness

◦      Visualizing Victory

Part III: Glimmers – Short essays on a variety of topics derived from interviews with Coach James. These essays include “Learning from Legends,” the legendary coaches who influenced James the most; “The Leader as Role Model,” how James approached leadership differently when he became a head coach; “Coaches Are Teachers” in which James – who earned a master’s degree in education – understood the principles of effective teaching and worked to ensure his assistants were effective teachers; and “Leading from the Tower” in which James explains that he viewed Husky practices from atop a tower not because he was aloof but for purely practical reasons. Among other topics, this section also explores how James attributes his focus on the kicking game to success in his first seven years at Washington.

Part IV: A Lasting Legacy – Comments about Coach James’ influence from Coach Gary Pinkel, University of Missouri; Coach Nick Saban, University of Alabama; Sam Wick, friend; Jeffrey James, grandson; James’ pastor, Rev. Jerry Mitchell; and Jill Woodruff, one of James’ three children.

James led his teams to 15 bowl games (10-5) including nine straight from 1979-87. He guided the Huskies to six Rose Bowls and is one of only four coaches to win four Rose Bowl games. His 1991 team finished the season 12-0, beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl, and was named National Champion by USA Today/CNN, UPI, the Football Writers, Sports Illustrated, and several computer rankings.

President of the American Football Coaches Association in 1989, James was National College Coach of the Year twice. He was inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame in 1993 and entered the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997.

Exhibiting a voracious appetite for reading and an expansive intellect, James uses a wide range of stories to engage the Huskies, including topics such as his views on the disparate approaches to goal-setting by Freud and Frankl; how the Cheshire Cat in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” related to the Huskies’ goals; the benefits of suffering; the importance of attitude; the keys to problem-solving; the true meaning of fun, and many others. He fashions speeches around figures including George Washington Carver, Benjamin Franklin, Julius Caesar, Vince Lombardi, Helen Keller, Romano Banuelos, among others.

Communication scholar Klaus Krippendorff (1995) examined the ways that great leaders employ language to construct a new version of reality for their followers. The late French philosopher and scholar Michel Foucault (1979) suggested power is “exercised rather than possessed.” Krippendorff took this a step further to point out the indisputable relationship of language to power: “Power is exercised rather than possessed, by someone and in words.”

“James’ transformation of the UW program proves what Krippendorff theorized: Leaders who are skilled using language have the power to literally speak things into being,” said Tormey. “‘The Thursday Speeches’ shows this is precisely what Coach James did.”

A portion of the proceeds from the book will be contributed to the UW’s Don James Football Endowment Fund to provide scholarship assistance to student-athletes who participate in the Husky football program.

For more information, please contact Peter Tormey via email at dr_peter_g_tormey@mac.com or at (509) 499-8670.

Share this post

  • Subscribe to our RSS feed
  • Share this post on Delicious
  • StumbleUpon this post
  • Share this post on Digg
  • Tweet about this post
  • Share this post on Mixx
  • Share this post on Technorati
  • Share this post on Facebook
  • Share this post on NewsVine
  • Share this post on Reddit
  • Share this post on Google
  • Share this post on LinkedIn