He was the man behind some of the most popular teams in San Francisco 49’ers history. A soft-spoken coach whose game plans and attention to detail was the signature of some great teams that played by the Bay. He is Bill Walsh, a coach whose legacy has been passed on through coaches to this very day.
On Monday, Walsh died at his Woodside home Monday morning following a long battle with leukemia. He was 75. A source said Walsh’s family was at his side shortly before his death. Walsh announced last November that he had leukemia and that the disease had been diagnosed in 2004. He broke ground with some of his great offensive game plans with players like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig and others. He was behind a game plan that won three Super Bowls for the 49’ers in the 1980’s.
“This is just a tremendous loss for all of us, especially to the Bay Area because of what he meant to the 49ers,” said the 49ers’ Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana. “Outside of my dad he was probably the most influential person in my life. I am going to miss him.”
Walsh went 102-63-1 with the 49ers, winning 10 of his 14 postseason games along with six division titles. He was named the NFL’s coach of the year in 1981 and 1984. “The essence of Bill Walsh was that he was an extraordinary teacher,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “If you gave him a blackboard and a piece of chalk, he would become a whirlwind of wisdom.”
Walsh was head coach with the 49ers from 1979 to 1988. Prior to that, he served as an assistant coach with the Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers. “He was a perfectionist,” said Keena Turner, a linebacker with the Niners for 11 years before going on to coach. “When writing his script, he didn’t believe that running the football was the way to get there. It had to be prettier than that — beautiful in some way.”
NAME: William Ernest Walsh.
BORN: Nov. 30, 1931; DIED: July 30, 2007
BIRTHPLACE: Los Angeles.
COACH: Three Super Bowl titles with San Francisco (1982, 1985, 1989); 6 NFC West division titles; 102-63-1 overall in 10 NFL seasons; 17-7 at Stanford from 1977-78, then 17-17-1 there from 1992-94. Also assistant coach with Oakland (1966), Cincinnati (1968-75) and San Diego (1976). Mentored many NFL coaches and assistants.
FAMILY: Wife, Geri; two children, Craig and Elizabeth. Son Steve, died of leukemia at age 46 in 2002.
HONORS: NFL coach of the year 1981; NFC coach of the year 1984; NFL 1980’s All-Decade team. Named 49ers general manager in 1982 and president in 1985, then took both positions again from 1999-2001. Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993, as well as the Bay Area Hall of Fame and Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame.