The Oakland Tribune

Walsh denies role in Mariucci's firing
January 24, 2003
Niners consultant calls radio station to air his side


Bill Walsh was tired of hearing talk about how he had a hand in forcing Steve Mariucci out as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. So Walsh placed a phone call to KNBR Thursday afternoon, explaining to hosts Ralph Barbieri and Tom Tolbert that he had no say in the firing of the popular Mariucci.

"I've had a great rapport with the coaches, spent a lot of time with them this year," Walsh said in the lengthy on-air interview. "I never interfered (with Mariucci or the assistant coaches). I was, I guess, a cheerleader all the time. I don't look at game tapes or anything because I don't want to have any ideas."

Walsh scoffed at the notion that he might create an uncomfortable shadow over the 49ers head coach, whether it be Mariucci or the yet-to-be-named successor.

"I would assume whoever Terry (Donahue) and John York hire, I would visit with them and, boy, if they feel a bit uncomfortable or if they're thinking about this position and they're uneasy with me, that's easy to solve," Walsh said. "All (the 49ers) have to do is pay me my contract and I'm down the road with my secretary in her new office. It wouldn't be a problem. If there's any question about me, it's not difficult for me to try to get my (golf) handicap lower. I have other things I'm doing."

Interestingly, at an NFL event in San Diego Thursday, former 49ers quarterback Steve Young threw Walsh's name into the hat of possible replacements for Mariucci.

"Don't be shocked if Bill says, 'I'll bridge that gap,'" Young said.

Current San Francisco quarterback Jeff Garcia said jokingly that he could see it happening.

"I wouldn't be surprised," Garcia said. "As much time as (Walsh) spends around the facility. ... He does give off a youthful exuberance."

Walsh said he had no hand in Mariucci's firing despite some obvious feelings to the contrary. It has been reported that Mariucci's wife, Gayle, emotionally yelled at Walsh soon after the announcement was made.

"The only concern I have is that people decide that I had anything to do with Steve Mariucci leaving," Walsh said. "That's just totally untrue. If somebody states that, it's a total fabrication. You can ask Steve."

Walsh did admit that he quickly encouraged Mariucci to look into the then-vacant head coaching job at Jacksonville.

"I moved as quick as I could when I heard about (Mariucci's firing), with Jacksonville," Walsh said. "I indicated to Steve, 'Give Jacksonville a look.' But he didn't want to. I think Steve's going to sit out the year and he'll have all kinds of opportunities next year."

Walsh said he was disappointed with the way news of Mariucci's firing was released to the media before the coach was able to notify his assistants and family.

"I don't know all the details of the firing or how it was orchestrated," Walsh said. "It was really unfortunate that people heard about this, especially his wife, before Steve Mariucci could connect with them."

While Walsh claimed he didn't know all of York's reasons for firing Mariucci, he indicated York wasn't happy with some of the game-time decisions made late in the season, including a blown late lead in the essentially meaningless regular season finale against the St. Louis Rams.

"The on the field decisions, there were a couple of games where I think John York was very upset," Walsh recounted. "There was the way we fell apart against the Rams in the fourth quarter. Then a couple of things occurred in the Tampa (playoff) game. To be honest with you, I never discussed that with John York. But there they were. I can't say that's the basis of Steve leaving."

Walsh also cleared up a story circulating by at least one 49ers player who was quoted as saying Walsh often gave pregame pep talks, which may have been construed as upstaging Mariucci.

Walsh said he spoke to the team only "at the requests of the coaches" and only before "maybe four or five games" for the entire season.

"Every time I spoke to the team, I started out by talking about the coaches and how important they were," Walsh said.

As for his role in finding a successor to Mariucci, Walsh -- whose official title is now "consultant" -- essentially said it's Donahue's baby.

"I'm not a party to it," Walsh said. "Terry's been going through a process of putting something together and he should be able to do that."

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