Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy and has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Hard for DeBriyn to get away from UA
Former Arkansas baseball coach Norm DeBriyn, (center) visits with friends Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, during a reception to honor DeBriyn's retirement from the Razorback Foundation. DeBriyn coached the Diamond Hogs from 1970 to 2002, and has worked at the Razorback Foundation since. More than 100 people came to congratulate DeBriyn and wish him well on his retirement.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Norm DeBriyn just retired. Again.
Even Brett Favre, retiring more often than the AARP can tabulate, eventually retired completely.
Not Norm. Razorback Foundation Executive Director Scott Varady won't let him for the umpteenth time.
Arkansas' College Hall of Fame baseball coach from 1970 through his 2002 first retirement, DeBriyn upon relinquishing the reins to then-Nebraska coach Dave Van Horn continued serving. Norm raised funds and goodwill for the Razorback Foundation.
From 2002 on, Norm served two athletic directors and four Razorback Foundation presidents. He was persuaded by Athletic Director Jeff Long to delay retirement and take charge of the Razorback Foundation in the interim between Sean Rochelle and Scott Varady.
Varady delayed another DeBriyn would-be retirement for a year and insists Norm remains as consultant emeritus.
"Consulting is coming by to drink coffee in the morning, and then I'm out of here," Norm quipped at his retirement party.
Good enough. If any fan drops by while Norm drinks coffee, it's worth it.
The corporation the Razorbacks have become desperately needs links to its Arkansas past.
Norm's accent is Wisconsin, but he's all Arkie. He's everybody's everyman.
It's why as Varady read a lengthy proclamation of DeBriyn's coaching accomplishments -- including four College World Series appearances with one national runner-up, and conference championships and multiple coach of the year honors in both the Southwest Conference and SEC -- that his coaching seldom receives full credit.
You don't think your humbly good guy next-door neighbor can coach.
But Norm could and did to Hall of Fame caliber.
Although left-handed, which catchers almost never are, Norm became nationally renowned for coaching catchers, especially Tom Pagnozzi, the former third baseman who said he owes 12 years of catching for the St. Louis Cardinals to his one year catching with the Razorbacks for Norm.
Most importantly, Norm built relationships. Lifetime relationships, whether they be with Charlie Baum or the mechanic introducing Norm to the benefactor for whom Baum Stadium is named.
DeBriyn, with self-deprecating essence, described how he came to coach the Razorbacks, then a baseball independent and a 1973 independent at Fayetteville's American Legion field when he coached them to their first NCAA regional.
The late gravel-voiced George Cole was athletic director while Norm was in the physical education department under Troy Hendricks when baseball coach Wayne Robbins resigned.
Norm and Bob Slusarek, the golf coach who had a baseball background, applied.
Slusarek was hired.
Norm humbly asked Cole to alert him to any baseball opening anywhere.
"Never mind that," Norm quoted Cole with gravelly grumbling. "Go do Troy a good job."
Two days later, Norm was summoned to Cole's office.
"DeBriyn," Cole grumbled. "If you don't mind being second fiddle, you've got the job. Slusarek doesn't want it."
Reviewing what DeBriyn built and protege Van Horn, four CWS appearances, keeps building, who knows whether Razorbacks baseball reaches first base had Norm not played second fiddle.
Sports on 02/08/2017
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